ARCHIVING BLOG – 20/03

An archive is a place in which to store information collected from the past and the present. “The Archive is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past and also from the mad fragmentations that no one intended to preserve and just ended up there.” (Howard, 2007)

Archiving must be given more thought because what we save for later is a reflection of what’s important, our values and priorities, whether it be individually or as whole populations of people, “Archives decide what is “inside” or “outside” of culture (in short what is recorded, preserved, destroyed, can or can’t be accessed).”

This suggests the way we keep information, how and through what we access information or data, changes the makeup of that data, concept or object at its very core. What people save personally, from bringing old magazines home to bookmarking a web page gives insight into the fears, concerns, aspirations, and idiosyncrasies of that person.

All the information we read in a single year forms the basis for our routines, traditions, dependencies and sets mental boundaries for what we believe can achieve. “Even individual habits; arise from the way that archives arrange the possibilities of experience and action.”

Publishing is ingrained in individuals, in everything we do. Publishing and its subsequent archiving, changes who we are fundamentally, how we relate to and interact with the world around us.

“The archivization produces as much as it records the event.” (Stokes, 2003)

This can be our experience of news-media. The way news is sold and presented to us, always linked to or within another context (eg. Report robberies à as a result of increased cost of living), is all about the way news is packaged in easily digestible blocks of information, the problem here is the inevitable oversimplifying of  issues which are far more complex.

However with the increasing disarray of archive platforms (especially online) organization, which is one aim of archiving, is basically lost. With that sinks the credibility of the data, our ability to understand it and thus the possibility of people adding to or building on shared information is reduced.

“Any channels or form of organization thus gives a certain arrangement of both authority drawn from the records of the past and future possibilities or potentials.” (Publics and Publishing outline)

‘Archive Fever’ – the constant desire to play with archive, written by Jacques Derrida, asks how the different and more modern ways of publishing preserve, distribute and facilitate access differently? And how does this impact/effect the use or credibility of the stored information?

I can relate to this desire through my addiction to online health archives. It has led to me having a sound knowledge of various states of dis-ease in the human body. This allows me to trouble shoot with friends and family their basic ailments and means that I have the knowledge to advise them on natural ways to combat them.

It has an impact on the way I live and whenever I’m lacking motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle I return to any number of online health archives to boost my knowledge. I think the obsession with archiving technologies is that it gives us an internal illusion of knowledge. Archives are perhaps, an extension of our limited memory.

Our ability to master archiving feeds our egos, allowing us to pump up our intellectual identities maybe? To pinpoint the absolute commencement of my suffering; it brings joy to be browsing the things I could know.

Even if all the worlds’ archives could be amassed into the “grand social history of the archive from ancient to modern times” (Stokes, 2003) it still could never be an accurate depiction of what really occurred.

The methods used to archive sets limitations on the content, and questions are raised such as; were the materials used to record robust enough to ensure archival survival?

As opposed to the old pre-20th century archives which make you sneeze, modern web-based archiving gives you the ability to ‘search’ –Control-Alt-F, perhaps the greatest weapon against the frustrations old historians and students face! As with Google, the average person can have an answer to their query in less than 10 seconds (depending on the haste of your internet connection)

Collaboratively we make our own realities. Setting our own limitations and leaning too heavily for support on our past hunches. “Derrida explains that while the archive seems to point to the past, it “should call into question the coming of the future.” (Enszer, 2008)

The past should be used as a measurement of how far we have travelled. The need to know where we are from, I believe is from an innate wish to have improved. To have a solid base from which we can grow; this also gives us a sense of direction, showing us which way is up?

Refs:

Howard, Sharon (2007) ‘Reposted: Archive fever (a dusty digression)’, Early Modern Notes, September 25, <http://emn.sharonhoward.org/2007/09/reposted-archive-fever-a-dusty-digression/>

Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27, <http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2003/06/130.ars>

Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian-impression-by.html>

Image: http://www.menil.org/collection/archives.php

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