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.

Archives and Accessibility

“An analysis of the tools you use and the way you are using them will often lead to discovering what is retarding your progress” –John Robert Gregg (I.C.b. in the Archive Index)

Borges’ Library of Babel calls to the forefront the question of accessibility: what happens when the knowledge is there but you just. plain. can’t. get. to. it? In his library, part of the problem is the sheer quantity of information; archives, in a way, can function as microcosms of this. Or, at least, the Stolen Time Archive seems to demonstrate this chaotic side of an archive. It definitely seemed as though there was information in the archive that I couldn’t access; things that it had decided to include but not to showcase. Foucault, I think, remarked that archives are never finished; as they sort out what to leave out and what to include - and, within that, what to feature and what to keep in storage - they’re constantly creating more information about choice, priorities, and specialization. It would be interesting to see what was left out of the Stolen Time Archive; in my short explorations of the site, it seemed a diverse group of art, writings, jokes, seriousness, and social commentary.

The Stolen Time Archive is effective in creating an experience – much more of an organic encountering of various materials than a scholarly presentation – but I didn’t find it that effective for learning and utilization. Perhaps it’s the tendency to click around on an unfamiliar website until something happens,  in which case the problem would be more on my end than the archive’s. The quote I excerpted at the beginning suggests that when things like the Stolen Time Archive, any other archive, or something even as fanciful as the Library of Babel don’t serve our purposes, we should examine our interactions along with diagnostics of the tools in order to best interact with archives.

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. 

The Stolen Archive

The Stolen Archive was an interesting piece of work to explore. In the author's statement, Alice Gambrell lays out her vision and goals for the work. 

"As an experiemntal archive, Stolen Time means to encourage visitors to think about the mixed significances communicated by any public collection of pirmary doecuments and objects; an archive is a practical resource, of coures, but it is also (by virtue of practices of inclusion, exclusion, arrangement, annotation, display and mode of access) a kind of argument. 

This attitude, and the set up and functions of the archive remind me of Werner and Voss's text, which we read earlier. The idea of an archive serving as multiple functions is definitely embodied here. The archive is the site, yet it is also what every indidvudal does on the site. By observing research, more research is observed. It is an extremely experiemntal way in which to observe the writing process. 

I'm not sure how effective I think it is. I really enjoyed reading both the author and the designer's statements and views more than the actual archive experience itself. 

Physicality and Time in the Digital Archive

The Stolen Time Archive is an incredibly dynamic archive, one that requires the users to engage with the material in order to access it. Its requirement for engagement on the part of the researcher left me quite confused at first. Every other archive I’ve ever accessed has been pretty straightforward, whether digital or physical. With The Stolen Time Archive, though, the user has to “Launch Project” in order to access any of the archived pieces. The idea of having to create a project in order to access the archive was totally foreign to me—but really fun, once I figured it out.

In spite of its unusually demanding level of user interaction, The Stolen Time Archive embodies many of the same archival concepts as those we’ve been discussing. On the most basic level, Stolen Time is a collection of pieces of history, just like any other archive. The particular types of pieces in this collection are office worker ephemera. However, Stolen Time collects more than just this ephemera—it also collects and records every place your cursor moves while working on a specific project. This feature adds an interesting element of time to the archive. It reminds the researcher that he/she is an active part of the archive. The researcher, depending on what he/she does with the information researched, has the potential to change the way that the ephemera are understood (especially if the information is used to create a secondary site, such as our Waste Land wiki. The recorded cursor movements also add physicality in a way that I’ve never experienced with a digital archive.  Seeing the cursor movements reminded me that I was physically interacting with the documents in the archive, even though a keyboard, touchpad, and screen were all necessary intermediaries to allow the interaction to happen.

In terms of sheer ease of use, Stolen Time isn’t the most effective. As far as I can tell, it’s impossible to search for a specific item. Instead, the user just has to play around with the program. However, as an interactive experiment in archiving theory, Stolen Time is incredibly effective. It forces the user to think about the method of digital archiving in a way that most digital archives do not require.

The Waste Land as an Archive

I had never thought of The Waste Land as an archive prior to reading Foucault, but when I consider the poem in that light there really isn't a better term that can be used to describe it. According to Foucault's definition, an archive "...unites in a single "volume" a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are, by virtue of their specific documentary character, the repetition of things said in the past" (105). The Waste Land is the only poem I can recall reading that appears to be more like a catalog of other ideas than an original text; it "cataologs" ideas, phrases, and direct references from world history and other works of literature throughout, and it's one of many reasons I enjoyed reading the poem. I loved trying to figure out where certain references were being pulled from. 

Archives are also used to preserve history and literature, and The Waste Land achieved that by reimagining and throwing together older texts, presenting them to a new audience. No work of literature is original, as each new piece either directly or indirectly draws upon previous works for inspiration. T.S. Eliot seemed very aware of this in his writing of The Waste Land. He purposely sought out references for use in his own work, which - strangely enough - makes the poem original, from a certain point of view.

The temptation

From foucault's assessment of the temptation it would seem as if it was precursory guide for works like The Wasteland. Foucault explains that's the essential relationship to books may represent more than a mere history in the western imagination; it opens a literary space wholly dependent on the network formed by books of the past: as such it serves to circulate the fiction of the books.
I feel as if the Wasteland does this but not just for books but history as well as religion. For culture and its mundane components.
As the temptation "recovers other books, it hides and displays them in a single movement, it causes then to glitter and disappear"

Works like these are not created to "foster the lamentations, the lost youth, the absence of vigor and the decline of inventiveness. . .but to unearth an essential aspect of our culture"

Archives, Foucault, and Eliot

As several of my classmates have said, Foucault’s descriptions map readily onto The Waste Land. Foucault addresses his focus, The Temptation, as “a monument to meticulous erudition” (89), a descriptor which perfectly suits The Waste Land as well. Within Eliot’s work, every line can be examined, unpacked, put back together, and deconstructed again and his attention to detail – no wasted words, every word significant – is amazing. The similarities continue as Foucault talks about “words spoken in the past…the amassing of minute facts, monuments reduced to infinitesimal fragments” (90-91), which calls to mind Eliot’s mythic method and the significant-yet-short references present in The Waste Land (ie, the quick reference to Mylae in line 70).

Key, I think, to Foucault’s treatment of archives are “the virtue of its essential relationship to books” and the ability “to extend the space that existing books can occupy” (91). I’m still trying to fully understand his point – especially the diagram found later in the essay – but I find his ideas about intertextuality and the constant referencing among texts fascinating. Finally, I was struck by the way he describes The Temptation as “the book of books,” as the description applies just as much to The Waste Land: “It unites in a single ‘volume’ a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are…the repetition of things said in the past. The library is opened, catalogued, sectioned, repeated, and rearranged in a new space” (105). This is The Temptation, this is The Waste Land, this is an archive.

Variety of archives

I was intrigued by the way archives are presented in these two articles; Voss and Werner explain them as both conceptual and physical spaces, while Foucault describes how The Temptation seres as an archive for all the other creations it refers to. I would have liked to have read The Temptation before Foucault, article, but Foucault makes the unexpected function of the book as an archive for its fellows clear. He phrases his point in the following way: "it unites in a single "volume" a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are, by virtue of their specific documentary character, the repetition of things said in the past. The library is opened, catalogued, sectioned, repeated, and rearranged in a new space" (105).

Books automatically refer to one another. It is impossible to write a work in isolation. Just as writers say "nothing is original", they might also say the one thing that cannot be done is to create a work that is not connected into the existing larger literary tradition. Foucault notes that the only originality in The Temtation is in its organization of the elements it includes. This is the problem all writers face and struggle to overcome--in an effort to create original, revolutionary work--until they realize that interconnectedness is not the enemy, and learn to embrace it. Archives are not only collections, but catalogues of our memories, and the way in which each archives integrates its components creates a new component in the collective totality of knowledge.

It could be said that one story is told by the Library of Congress--as a physical and conceptual space where on one hand children are forbidden to even touch the books, and where on the other all things must be recorded for current to future generations. There is the story of the library at Alexandria, of the things that we speculate were lost as well as those that survived. There is the library--and book, all at once--of the internet, which no human soul living today can ever fully read in its entirety. Under a broader understanding of archives, archives can be "books" just as books can serve as "archives". The only difference is a matter of scale.