stolen time

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.