Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Notes on the Archive

“As a set of rules that define the events of discourse, the archive is situated between
Langue, as the system of construction of possible sentences––that is, of possibilities of
speaking––and the corpus that unites the set of what has been said, the things actually
uttered or written. The archive is thus the mass of the non-semantic inscribed in every
meaningful discourse as a function of enunciation; it is the dark margin encircling and
limiting every concrete act of speech.”

Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz.
The Witness and the Archive, 144.

1 comment:

  1. Some interesting quotes about classicification and access of archives from the article I read: Mike Featherstone - "Archive" (2006)

    "Each classification system opens up new avenues in to the material, yet it also closes off others. It is impossible to approach the data in a way in which it can be 'made to speak' neutrally, objectively and once and for all." (593)

    "In short, the archive is a potential place of discovery, yet this discovery, the constitution of significant facts, of historical events, depends upon the contingent status of the fragments that found their way into the archive, while much of the fellow contemporary source material, the alleged key to the richness of lived culture and everyday life from which it arose as imperfect recordings, lies destroyed or at best undiscovered. Yet once in the archive, finding the right material which can be made to speak may itself be subject to a high degree of contingency - the process not of deliberate rational searching but serendipity." (594)

    "Today the new information technologies expand our capacity to record everything: to be is to record and to record in volume means to classify, index and archive. Yet the will to archive runs up against the speed and flexibility of the technologies which underminde stable classification and indexing and threatens to pile classificatory systems onto classificatory systems on the one hand, and provide immediate access to un-formed, or de-formed, life and information flow as against form, on the other. Knowledge distributed in information flows and networks differs in many ways from the ledger on the shelf in the archive. Meaning ceases to be contained in a bounded physical textual form, the page or ducomuent, but is able to flow through network nodes." (595)

    "With the digital archive we see a move away from the concept of the archive as a physical place to store records, so that culture depends upon storages (libraries, museums, etc.), to that of the archive as a virtual site facilitating immediate transfer. The notion of immediate data access and feedback replaces the former data separation (the file in the box on the shelf) which created the differences out of which an archive order was constructed and reconstructed. The digital archive then should not be seen as just a part of the contemporary 'record and storage mania' facilitated by digital technologies, but as providing a fluid, processual, dynamic archive, in which the topology of documents can be reconfigured again and again." (595-6)

    "Foucault (1972) reformulates the archive as archaeology and shifts the meaning of the archive away from the unifying structure we find in traditional humanist accounts to a system in which a multiplicity of discourses are created from a given set of data. The emphasis moves to fluid and complex archival traces, in which the archive cannot provide a direct access to the past, but only a textual refiguring it." (596)


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