An Archive is essentially storing and organising information so it is easily accessible at a later date. Examples of archiving can be found through out history from Ancient Roman manuscripts to your itunes collection. With archiving comes a certain sense of power and authority simply because an archive has the ability to determine what information and material future generations and yourself for that matter are able to access. Archives select the most important pieces of data at any given point in time and therefore dictate which parts of history are to be documented and passed on from generation to generation.
Jacques Derrida termed the phrase ‘Archive Fever’ in what he literally meant as the inherent human condition to gather and organize information in a form of archive and then reorganize and re-gather and so on. This term, ‘Archive Fever’ is becoming exponentially more relevant in todays society than it was when it was first coined some 18 years ago. This is because the fast paced, need-to-know construct of modern society. People today want things instantaneously and easily. They don’t want to have to go through the manual and laborious task of flicking through a CD case to find their favourite track, rather they would prefer pressing a few buttons and clicking play on iTunes. So all this fever around archiving looks great, doesn’t it? People are able to organise their information, data and material far more efficiently and easily in the digital age. Think of social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Subconsciously we are archiving our thoughts, experiences and photos on the web through these social platforms. However this then poses problems.
As Matt Ogle writes in his online article ‘Archive Fever: a love letter to the post real time web’ “Except we can’t quite, you know, do much with it yet. What he is referring to is the fact that these new digital forms of archiving such as Twitter and Facebook often dictate which parts of our personal information are important, not us the user. This poses serious questions about who really is the archivist. As Ogle states “The current philosophy underlying most of the real-time web is that if it’s not recent, it’s not important” thus defeating the purpose of an archive. However there is change on the horizon “This is what we need to change.”
With the invention of such online tools as Facebook’s Timeline, the social medium is giving the power to archive back to the user. Rather than chronologically listing information in a sequence, which disappears at the bottom of your page after merely a day of serious Facebooking, only to be retrieved by a serious of annoying clicks of the next button, Facebook now organises your photos, posts, comments and everything in between so that it can be searched easily and found instantaneously. This is where Ogle believes archiving and the fever associated with it is going;
“The past couple years have seen an increasingly beautiful array of mashups, art experiments, utilities and even a few ahead-of-their-time startups explore the latent potential in personal archives and alternatives to real-time and the relentless reverse-chronological list … These experiments are vital, and they suggest that letting us discover and interact with both the near-present and the deeper corners of our own personal archives need not be something relegated to the margins of the early-adopter web. It’s time to integrate archive mentality directly into existing products and services, and in some cases create entire new ones.”
Derrida, Jacques (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression Chicago:University of Chicago Press
Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16
Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27
Anon. (n.d.) ‘Derrida: Text Citations’, The Derrida the Movie web site