Archives

Archives are always important because they are not only the basis for individual or collective memory, but also the basis for authority, social formations and culture. Archives can be found anywhere in our lives, from religious and educational texts (i.e. the Bibles, books, etc) which constitute the most fundamental level of social institutions to individual collections (i.e. diaries, photo albums etc.). The importance of archives also lays in the basis for authority. The Constitution, for example, which is the principle legal doctrine prescribes certain rights and obligations for a nation’s citizen, has been archived since the birth of the country.  This article will examine the two major issues relating the concept of ‘archive’ in this modern society.

With the expansion of technological advance, archives have also been shifted in many forms and formats. Archives may no longer be stored in a mass room with shelves totally fulfilled by books and books. They can be ‘virtual’ archives in which data is stored and published via digital devices and can only be accessed by digital equipment. Daily diary entries, photo albums, videos to capture memorable moments can be created on web-based blogs such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress etc. These new modes of publishing have changed the publication’s structure of archives. Previously, archives are unchangeable as they records events already happened in the past, and user was just passively consuming the data. In this sense, archives had power to affect over people and events. However, the previous relationship between producers and users has become blurred with new technology. These parties can become other’s role in both directions. Users can create and edit archives themselves. We’ve all become accidental archivists. The real-time web has just created a widely-architecture for self-archival.

The other issue related to today new form of archives is their provenance. The following questions are confronted – where does data come from, what authority do they have? What social/political effects do they have? Self-archival data may be backed up by high degree of reliability. For example, Wikipedia or the hurricane archive website (http://hurricanearchive.org) allow everyone to post up their own stories. The nonexistence of fast-tracking process nor official approval and editing would mean that the trustfulness of those data is not guaranteed. Reliability of those online archives is thus challenged.  There is also a transfer of memory’s ownership. Who owns those archives? If Facebook, Twitter, Youtube allow user to store their personal memory, do users still own those memories? Since those websites have the authority to remove posts that are violating their terms and conditions, or personal information can be lost if the website collapses, we have no control over those archived that are already uploaded. Thus archives are no longer belonged to the archivists.

References

Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27, <http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2003/06/130.ars>

Howard, Sharon (2005) ‘Archive fever (a dusty digression)’, Early Modern Notes, June 15, <http://www.earlymodernweb.org.uk/emn/index.php/archives/2005/06/archive-fever-a-dusty- digression/>

Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian- impression-by.html>

Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, <http://mattogle.com/archivefever/>

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