The Stolen Time Archive

Evolution in the Archive

As I navigated the Stolen Time archive, I was reminded of projects and websites my AP English Language teacher had us look at during my junior year in high school. In preparing us for college and higher education, my teacher promoted not only analysis of modern and post-modern works, but also that of non-academic works -- video games, comic books, TV commercials, blogs, et cetera. Both Platform Studies and the Stolen Time article similarly take the mundane and seemingly meaningless and bring them up into the light of academic analysis or, if not that, academic consideration at the least. And isn't that important? Where do we draw the line separating those worthy of remembrance and consideration, and those unworthy?

The Stolen Time archive is quite possibly the most comprehensive archive I have ever laid eyes on. The reader becomes a part of the archive as they are interacting with it. While it may not act as an efficient and easily navigable archive, Stolen Time embodies the idea of the archive itself. It takes in anything and everything pertaining to its topic - photos, copies of articles, original articles; and most interestingly the movements, actions, and stories of its readers. Foucault argues that the "archive" is forever evolving and never complete; a concept which is proven in Stolen Time as it evolves with every new reader. It, in some way, is swept up in the "archive fever" - a desire and drive to archive every single thing it can, whether or not anyone else considers those things to be relevant. That is the goal of the archive. An archive saves everything and takes note of everything, just in case someone should have the desire to access it.

Stolen Time

I was really confused and overwhelmed by The Stolen Time Archive. It seems to me that the only way a person can truly understand it and get everything out of it would be to spend hours sorting through its information and pictures. I did, however, come away from it with a better understanding of what archives can be and how they can fit in with the concept of postmodernism. The Stolen Time Archive was definitely a more postmodern look at archives. I got that feeling even before I "clocked in," when I was reading the poetry at the beginning of the project. At first, the project is difficult to navigate because you have no idea what's going on, which forces the user to be patient and meticulous. This was obviously done with intent. Minimum wage jobs do require patience, and they can seem pointless and grating at times. I feel like the very setup of the archive is emulating that in a way.

The archive is also very random. You make the decisions by clicking on whatever interests you. It is not a linear experience, but rather one built upon whatever you choose, which creates seemingly random results as well. The archive may require several playthroughs to really understand what the general message even is, which put me off a bit. I wonder if the experience would have been more rewarding if I'd had more time. It's also funny to me that the archive is named "Stolen Time," and that's basically what it does if you get too wrapped up in it. It almost seemed never-ending to me.

The Stolen Time Archive and Recycling the Past

       Foucault says that the archive is “that which differentiates discourses in their multiple existence and specifies them in their own duration.” (The Historical A Priori and the Archive, 129) Foucault is saying that the archive recycles from the past and recasts it in the future. The Stolen Time Archive is doing just that; its very name invokes a sense of reclaiming the past. One of the projects I looked at was about the Irish potato famine. Entitled Mobile Figures and located under the mobility section (Volume 1 Issue 2), David Lloyd and Erik Loyer merge something from the past, the Irish Potato Famine, and forms it to present time, which led to the creation of an interactive ‘potato map.’ I think this is effective, but not as effective as it could be. Each of the other archives were about one pretty specific topic, but The Stolen Time Archive seems to be less pointed, which I think is a drawback. A lot of the things I saw on the Archive were really interesting, but I’m not sure how I would use them. And I don’t know if I would ever come across this archive when looking for something specific because it doesn’t seem to be a completely cohesive piece of work.

External Processing about Archival Theory and How I Don't Like Change

Allow me to be blunt in saying that I really didn't understand the point of the Stolen Time archive. While I think it has some fun elements as a program and is visually pleasing, it is not very efficient. Personally, I just didn't get it. Perhaps my idea of an archive is still too conservatice, but I feel that an archive exists to provide access to information and resources. In order to serve is purpose in the best way, I feel that an archive needs to be fairly easy to navigate. I understand that this could be the result of a consumer-friendly, I-use-an-iPhone-because-it's-easy-to-navigate mentality that consumes my generation, but to some degree I can't help that I had adapated to that mindset. To another degree, I am comfortable with my definition and I don't like change. In my mind, the archive is not a "good archive" because it isn't efficient. It doesn't serve to provide information or resources and it is certainly unclear how exactly to navigate its contents.

That being said, I do see the project's function as art. To me, the project can be free of the (my) implications and guidelines of an archive. It is not helpful, necessarily, but it is enjoyable. It is certainly creative and provides a unique experience. Perhaps ths the word I would use for the project is an exhibit. Now I know that an exhibit is also a collection of objects/information which certainly sounds similar to my definition of an archive. However, I guess the function or purpose of the collection is where my distinction is. The Stolen Time project doesn't really seek to inform but to entertain (I use that term loosely). In most cases, people do not go to art museums to learn; they go to experience the art. Similarly, this project is providing an artistic, aesthetic experience. 

In this way, the proejct realtes to our archival theory discussions in that it seeks to expand the idea of what an archive can be. I certainly see the digital, interactive project taking the notion that an archive is a living organism of sorts. For instance, each photo and document exists hidden somewhere in the project; they move around as you explore; they are a part of the body of material. It's very fascinating to explore these ideas, especially as they can be applied to the internet as a whole. After all, the website containing the archive is one of millions of websites in the larger body that is the internet. Interestind ideas!

To Make Work out of Art, and Art out of Work

The Stolen TIme Archive was incredible.  I was incredibly confused when I first got to the page, because whatever I was expecting, it wasn't that.  Something that really struck me while reading the author's statement was when Gambrell said "we mean to ask you to think hard about what it means to make work out of art, and to make art out of work".  While going through the archive, I kept seeing how work was made into art over and over again.  The whole idea that Gambrell put into action in The Stolen Time Archive is really cool.  

I'm definitely still struggling to understand all that we've been discussing and reading about archives and archival theory, but Gambrell's hands-on project helped to make it somewhat easier to understand.  At the end of the project, I noticed that there was a page that tracked my mouse's movement throughout the entire time I was in the archive, which is one of the moments that really struck me as art.  What Gambrell has complied in her archive is more than just documents.  There are documents, pictures, posters, comic strips, books, etc, which we have discussed in class when speaking of digital archives.  It's not just a library full of books, the archive is so much more. 

Play in The Stolen Time Archive

The Stolen Time Archive is both limited by the specificity of its topic and unlimited in its narrative abilities. Some suppression of knowledge is necessary for the audience to extrapolate meaning from the archive, to understand its purpose and avoid the chaos that accompanies a vast collection of disorderly and unrelated artifacts. However, The Stolen Time Archive remains unbounded by the media it employs, utilizing vintage advertisements, interactive elements, and work simulations to construct an archive reminiscent of secretarial duties.

The Stolen Time Archive achieves the element of archival “play” by inviting the curious spectator to participate in a simulation of the secretarial role. The participant immediately falls victim to the mundane repetitive activity of perfecting handwriting: in order to progress to the fundamental “meat” of the archive, the participant must trace his/her chosen symbol three times, while the technology operates against the participant’s efforts by highlighting his/her flaws. After proceeding past this initial test, the archive is launched, granting access to several hyperlinks of reproduced information and photographs. In the top corner a clock records the time a participant remains “clocked in.” The participant essentially adopts the role of a secretary, a secretary of the archive, rendering the participant and his/her experience as significant to the archive as the content itself.

The use of both tangible information and abstract (spectator) experience is a highly effective method to archive the role of the secretary. To explore the archive is to be forced into the role of the secretary, forging the identification the participant has with the real-life secretaries of the past. The archive encompasses not only the documents within the program but also the personal experience of the spectator exploring the archive.

The Stolen Time Archive

 The Stolen Time archive reflects what we’ve been reading through the way it presents its information. By making us work to get the information that is inside the archive it reflects the pains that occurs during the work office, especially for women. Even though I did this already, I remember it took me many tries with doing the writing section of the site. However, it seems this round I was able to get it right. Maybe it’s because of game playing that I did in the summer dealing with having to draw lines and such. But I felt that to gain entrance through this way forces a person to realize that the archive is doing quite a bit of interaction with the reader and not just remaining as a simple archive.

Looking through the different articles I discovered that there was a lot of information about women’s roles in the office. It did not sound pleasant to be a woman in the office during the time. I found it sad that women were treated so harshly especially in the role of the secretary. It is also crazy the advertisements that were shown and how extreme they were. I found too the use of pictures on the site to be effective. Just reading text alone isn’t enough sometimes to really show an impact, but pictures usually help people see things if not by text.

Also by being interactive it allowed people to not just sit, read and type but experience some of the ways that the archive was revealing about in punishment etc. So it was definitely unique in allowing us to interact with the archive while the others that we were dealing with were not so interactive. Actually I found them to be really confusing and I wasn’t sure how to use them and had to play with them for a long time.

I did not understand Focault so I am unable to compare him with the archive or use him as a source. It wouldn’t be write to me to try to compare something in which I did not understand it clearly. While it was broken down in class I found Focault to still be a confusing read. 

Edit: The interactive part of the archive is interesting to me because of the way it forces you to interact with it.  To get into the archive you have to pass, otherwise you have to keep doing it over and over until you are accepted. I find it interesting that you have to be accepted to enter the archive through the interaction because often you can go into an archive without having to work at gaining access. So the interactive part works well with the archive’s topic on the workplace. Making the person work to be able to use the archive through its interactive form.