If I understand the term “archive” as a definition of a storage, collecting and organisation space for information to enable methodical access to the stored information, then it incorporates similar characteristics to what I understand of publishing. It is an ever evolving and changing process that aligns itself with recent technological developments and their advantages. When Gutenberg introduced the printing press, he probably and arguably also introduced the Christian reformation movement. He thus did not only introduce a new and powerful form of publishing, he also introduced new forms of archiving the bible, which therefore enhanced its accessibility and resulted in a revolutionary social movement. So archives, similarly to the publishing process, have already 500 years ago empowered information access and distribution as well as greatly impacted on established and seemingly sustainable social structures.
Within the past 500 years archives have however altered numerous times and have made significant impact on worldwide cultures and societies. In the age of the Internet we, as members of westernised societies, can choose from several archives to fulfil our demands and needs. If we were, for example, looking for an archive that collects and organises daily news and makes those accessible to us, we would probably decide to read a newspaper.
Jacques Derrida explains that all media on the one hand construct archives and simultaneously destroy others (Derrida, 1995). There are an infinite number of archives, which have developed and introduced newer versions of themselves or have even stayed the same. I would argue that in a broader context even institutions like UNSW are archives. Here I’m talking about that kind of archive that hasn’t really developed so much. The basic idea of organising education and knowledge, store it and make it accessible to students is a form of archiving, which is more than only a few hundred years old. Similar archivist functioning can be seen in individual people such as teachers. They know where to access the information they want to deliver and choose particular ways of storing and organising those.
Coming to newer forms of archiving we thus have to include the Internet into the discussion. I would argue that through the Internet, which has introduced a whole new genre of archives, the mode of access has particularly changed. Whereas we do not need to walk into a library anymore to then set up a membership in person, wait for the membership pass to be sent to one’s home by post to then walk back into the library to borrow a book, which we carry home to then read it. We can now do this whole process electronically. Google does not even require a membership for it. Our university library can also be accessed easily by entering electronic identification data to be eligible to read electronically saved information. No waiting for the post or hoping to find the actual book before someone else does. The organisation of libraries themselves as a physical space compared to an online portal is additionally very different and solely aligned with their underlying organisation technologies.
As the internet and its numerous archives is arguably the most accessed archive of today’s western society all mobile social media devices are a must have regardless of their own archiving capability. Jussi Parikka is so right when she says “ we are miniarchivists ourselves in this information society, which should be more aptly called an information management society” (Parikka, 2013). On the other hand I’m still wondering about the exact differences of archiving and information management… Nonetheless, iCloud, hard drives and the whole social media family are providing us with the new set of archives, their benefits and their requirements. I won’t go into depth, but how is my grandmother as a pre-mobile technology child supposed to access the same information that I am accessing?
Matthew Ogle argues that “providing us with new ways to share what we’re doing right now, the real time web also captures something we might not have created otherwise: a permanent record of event” (Ogle, 2010). He outlines the new content genre but also the missing out on remembering what past content was about. I argue against this approach of technological determinism. I think this is still a conscious socially determined action on how we use the Internet but I agree with Mr Ogle that we should try to use the gaps of our time’s archives for future benefits.
Overall, I have to say that whether social identification becomes weaker or stronger through archiving personal expression on social media is a subjective discussion to which I haven’t found the answer yet. But there is an obvious conclusion to something else. Developments of archiving impact on publishing as well as the other way around which will always impact on society and therefore on us individually. What we are going to do with these opportunities in the end is our responsibility. I would suggest that let’s look forward to them and use them for some constructive transformation rather than hating on everything new.
- Derrida, Jaques (1995) ‘Archive Fever – A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, 25 (2), pp 9-63.
- Ogle; Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, http://mattogle.com/archivefever/.
- Parikka, Jussi (2013) ‘Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology’ in Ernst, Wolfgang Digital Memory and the Archive Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 1-22.