Archive Fever

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.

Archives and paradox

I will preface my post by saying I am really glad that I was able to read this Archive Fever instead of hear it as a lecture in its original presentation. After reading I felt both informed, impressed, confused and mildly panicked, like the time my supposed male kitten Walter birthed five kittens in my living room. I think this is mostly because Derrida’s discussion of the archive shows that it embodies so many different things at once, from the word itself to the physical space it occupies. The work itself is both general and specific at the same time, which is appropriate because the archive is both flexible and inflexible and dependent on the archon / archivist. Derrida's archive is wrapped in paradox and served in a wisp of elusion, as it is "at once institutive and conservative. Revolutionary and traditional" (7). I think its most important or notable that the archive strives to preserve but ends up creating. Considering the Ransom Center in Austin where Staley preserves papers and ephemera and books collections of contemporary writers, he is also creating the canon of today, seeking and dropping lots of dollars for these works, attempting to preserve their writings but actually creating worth with them.

I am most interested in the past/present/future aspect of the archive and the way archons strive to capture the present while creating the past for the future. Derrida writes:

the archive, as printing, writing prostehsis, or hypomnesic technique in general is not only the place for stocking and conserving an archivable content of the past which would exist in any case, such as without the archive, one still believes it was or will have been. No, the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future. The archivization produces as much as it records the event. This is also our political experience of the so-classed news media (16-17).

I think digital culture especially fosters this creation of the present - living in the future so the present is the past - with things like the timeline on facebook that "tells your story" or things like blogs, tumblrs, etc. You can create how you will be perceived by others, but also how you will remember yourself (or whatever else you are archiving) in years to come. Of course, journals, diaries and letters from years ago are also archives. The "living in the future" thing is also the motivator behind the hugely popular nostalgia trend. The constant and ever-present archivization of one's self places extraordinary value in the past or what has happened or will happen and then be done with, so it must be remembered and then re-remembered and re-archived. These digital mediums do make the archive simultaneously permanent and impermanent; a blog can be deleted but someone could have a file or screen shot of the blog, or have printed it off, etc., opposed to hard copies which are at the discretion of the owner.

Archive Fever and Literary Technology

So, I'd be really interested to see what you and Derrida thought about these technologies we have been using and their roles as archives. First however, I was thinking as I was reading the beginning of Archive Fever about the role of word processing programs and archive. Derrida addresses this in terms of immensity of information available "electronic mail today, even more than the fax, is on the way to transforming the entire public and private space of humanity" (17). I agree. Not only do computers allow for an immense amount of data to be stored by one person, but also, as Derrida notes, what does the computer do to memory? Derrida discusses repression and suppression, and how that affects one's memory and is manifested in writing (I think this is only part of an immense and difficult discussion). But, then the computer affects that as Derrida asks: "And where should the moment of suppression or of repression be situated in these new models of recording and impression, or printing" (26). I think this question is an important one because I think for most of us, the computer is a place for zero inhibitions, even over-exhibition of our wildest ideas. There doesn't seem to be that permanence as exists with writing a page with very little repression or suppression, and it is automatically published (I mean published in the sense that it has a record as seen on our hard drives). It's accessible information that doesn't not warrant discretion. That, I think, in 50 years will have an immense impact on archives, which will lead to hyper-categorization.


This leads me to the question of authorship. I was thinking while reading this about the technologies that we have been using in class like Gephi and Juxta that take a corpus of literature and expose it in a different plane (or so it would seem through graphs, maps, trees, screen shots, whatever). I was wondering how these fit in with the archive. I mean, it's almost like two archives (one of numbers/commands and another of a story) are meeting and they create a new archive in the images which are created. Then I began to wonder who would be called the author, the writer of the corpus of literature, the writer of the software program, or the user who feeds in the literature? This Derrida addresses: "There is no no meta-archive. Yerushalmi's book, including its fictive monologue, henceforth belongs to the corpus of Freud (and of Moses, etc.), whose name it also carries. The fact that this corpus and this name also remains spectral is perhaps a general structure of every archive. By incorporating the knowledge deployed in reference to it, the archive augments itself, engrosses itself, it gains in auctoritas. But in the same stroke it loses the absolute and meta-texual authority it might claim to have" (68). So, I suppose content presupposes and determines form. I mean that say Bill runs An American Tragedy through Gephi and generates a graph. He keeps the graph in his wallet forever, treasuring his find. Bill becomes famous. TU gets his materials, which includes the graph. They archive his work with the tags "Bill Quinn, William Quinn, TU graduate, Theodore Dreiser, Clyde Griffiths, Modernity, Historical Fiction." Forevermore Bill Quinn will be associated with those things even though he might write neo-sensationalist Victorian adventure novels. Of course, I'm raising a point about categorization here, but I think that we are seeing a mashing of archives  together, on a personal level that can be forever maintained on pc's which have great opportunity through program availability, that may not have been at play when Derrida was around.


Any thoughts?