Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reading: Archive and Aspiration

Yesterday our clustering session yielded several research directions that we will dig deeper into this week. The topic I will address is power and the archive. The IT revolution has changed the way we think about information and accordingly, the archive. The result has been a shift in power from traditional, controlled archives towards information created, curated/edited and distributed through a participatory culture, in a sense democratizing these processes.

I started by looking into the V2_/NAi publication, Information is Alive: Art and Theory on Archiving and Retrieving Data, for some insight. The book is a collection of essays, projects, and interviews from different art/design disciplines. The most inspiring article I read was Archive and Aspiration, by Arjun Appadurai. I over simplify and paraphrase below.

Appadurai discusses how the digitalization of the archive has led to a return to the archive's traditional role as a deliberate site for recording anticipated memories for collectives, freeing the archive from the exclusive realm of state control, policing or from the tomb of the trace. The IT revolution has had the effect of increasing the accessibility and extended the function and possibilities for the archive. The digital archive becomes the site for the deliberate production of anticipated memories by communities. Appadurai gives the example of the digital migrant archive; the archive for disposessed people whose histories do not correspond with "official" memory. This intensified form of archive acts as a highly interactive forum giving voice, agency and debate, as a site for creating/negotiating collective memory and aspiration, mediating between the past and present locations.
"Rather, the migrant archive is a continuous and conscious work of the imagination, seeking in collective memory an ethical basis for the sustainable reproduction of cultural identities in the new society."
The archive is the map of how to interact within uncertainty and a tool to link between memory, desire and hope. For me, the notion of archive lending agency and location to grassroots, subversive or other groups confronting, breaking down or transforming the powers that be, is very fascinating...the tools of the oppressors become the tools of the suppressed.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sitting next to you, but this is for reference as well as partial summary of what I read yesterday.

    "INFOWAR" (ARS Electronica 98) had a few articles that could give some inspiration for the subversion/power area.

    Information Warefare: A New Challenge - Shen Weiguang (p. 60)
    This article defines some criteria for information warfare and its goals (ex: "to achieve informational supremacy" and to "knock out or modify the enemy's decision-making powers and the activities depending on them"). It also touches upon the progression of kinds of wars with certain technological advances, and how this war of the minds is now taking place in invisible space. Also how the nature of war is becoming more complex: no longer is it a "just" or "unjust" war, and the people who can participate has also opened up.

    "Coercion and Countermeasures: The Information Arms Race" - Douglas Rushkoff (p. 218)
    Rushkoff argues that humans have already lost the InfoWar, and that communication dies when it becomes information. Broadcasting, programming, and "interactive" media are all one-way distribution of static content.
    "Like lovemaking, communication is a living exchange between equal partners... When equals are communicating, nothing is fixed."
    The internet at first seemed "sexy because people and their ideas could co-mingle and mutate," however even that has fallen short: "Instead of forging a whole new world, the World Wide Web gives us a new window on the same old world. The web is a repository for information. It is dead."


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.