Week 5 – Archives, Theory & Practice

On to week 5 and this week’s topic is archives again! This week’s blog will have more to do with authority and memory, as well as the cultural and individual theory and practice surrounding this information. Jussi Parikka suggests that archives have always had an interesting aura surrounding them despite being thought of as obsolete and abandoned places, and to some extent, this is true, however, the concept of an archive is changing. Jacques Derrida writes in his piece Archive Fever that different media processes set up different kinds of archives, which often form the basis of cultural activity.

We are able to see archives as a link between memory and experience. Archives allow us to gain both of these through the one piece of information and distribute it through different forms of content and expression. Producers and users (or ‘produsers’ if you will) are able to use archives to both express their experiences and distribute them among different media platforms, allowing this information to feed into each other and flow through other information systems. This is where I believe our designated ‘word of the week’ comes into action, but more of that infotention (or ‘infotension’) stuff later.

Archive fever is able to influence our experience of media, as well as the theory and practice surrounding these topics. Experience depends on the way we deal with these archives, and how they are able to carry our past actions into the present and onto future possibilities. The theory and practice side of archives provides us with the approaches, methods and concepts used by people to link media technologies and techniques back to the archived information. Archives are able to change our conception of the world through theories and practice, and this link between media, theory and culture makes archives one of the three main aspects of publishing. Overall, archives are able to act as a theory and as a technology or technique all at the same time, forming the basis for possible future methods, approaches and practices in the media world.

Infotention - the forms of attentions and distractions that can change our habits, ideas, or even information

Infotention – the forms of attentions and distractions that can change our habits, ideas, or even information!

Now, back to my ideas on infotention. Howard Rheingold writes that infotention is the word he has created to describe the particular set of skills needed to find our way online today. He says it is a combination of both attention skills and computer information filters, which I believe is incredibly relevant to online media archives. Take for example my Facebook photo albums, a classic example of the online archive that is able to hold both digital memory and experience. Now while this may be easy for me to upload these photos online, my parents wouldn’t have a clue how to do it. Therefore, you could say that I have the infotention to post an online archive, as I have the necessary skills to carry out the task online, while my parents, although having both cognitive and social skills, lack the technological skill to create this type of archive. Overall, infotention is based around attention and distraction. These forms of thinking are able to influence our habits through media archives, which are often a form of either attention or distraction, depending on how you look at them!

References:

Derrida, J. (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Parikka, J. (2013) “Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology”, in Ernst, Wolfgang Digital Memory and the Archive, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 1-22

Rheingold, H. (2009) “Mindful Infotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters”, SFGate, <http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/09/01/mindful-infotention-dashboards-radars-filters/> [accessed 10 April 2013]

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