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Monthly Archives: March 2012

It is fascinating to think that archiving began as a an almost elitist and authoritarian process, that is looking at it from today’s perspective, where the Internet has given the impression that everything should be free including being able to publish personal material. Matthew Ogle’s explained in  ‘Archive Fever,’ “how long it took to adjust to life without the warm twitchy blanket of what’s called ‘the real-time web.'” Matthew Ogle’s article also highlights the “early 90s, philosopher Jacques Derrida, who made a useful observation on technology’s relationship to human memory and conceptions of ‘the archive.'” Derrida wrote that “the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content,” while it also creates precise records of certain events. I noted on BBC2’s production of Stephen Fry’s  Planet World that the documentary made an interesting point on language and how peoples emotions and attitudes vary depending on the different dialects they use. This in a sense is similar to Derrida’s argument about how different ways of storing information can influence the structure and the content produced.

Though Derrida explains how, we must have a “nostalgic desire for the archive,” Ogle makes the point that “the real-time web also captures something we might not have created otherwise,” writing how, “we’ve all become accidental archivists; our burgeoning digital archives open out of the future.” A personal example I can link to this would be the Vietnam war, in which for the first time, journalists had the technology and permission to report on the destruction with no bias or hidden agenda. This was the first case in history really, where people, (particularly American citizens,) protested against their own government to stop a war. This was all thanks to the exposure and documentation of the utter destruction it was causing by the media. In the same way, the recent Libyan conflict has been widely documented an archived thanks to the mass amount of technology including camera phones and widespread access to the internet.

This photo seems quite relevant for this topic..

Julie Enszner writes in ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, that “the nature of an archive is to be both authoritarianly transparent and authoritatively concealed.” Ironically, while the elitist mode that publishing and archiving began at once was used to enhance power and authority, the access to a wide variety of publishing platforms, (thanks to the internet,) has given this power and authority back to the people. This can be seen in internet platforms such as ‘Wikileaks’ where information has been archived on a public platform in order to expose wrong doings in the world that may have been swept under the rug otherwise. Ultimately Enszner writes how Derrida once stated, “It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come”

 

In some ways Bruno Latour’s, “Actor-Network Theory” seems a bit broad, although the idea of “flat-ontology” does create a simpler idea in terms of understanding and funnily enough deconstructing the term assemblage. Before even reading up on the “ANT,” I automatically connected the notion to the idea of semiotics, which in a simple definition is the study of meaning and processes. The Wikipedia page described the concept as, “explaining how material–semiotic networks come together to act as a whole, generating explicit strategies for relating different elements together into a network so that they form an apparently coherent whole.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory.) In week 3 I researched the idea of “convenience,” and spoke about the ‘Semantic Web’ and how it used information to connect and build digital structures of information almost in the same way humans use filing cabinets to organise physical content.

Though it seems like a bit of a gargantuan example, the internet itself seems like the most obvious illustration linking to the ‘ANT.’ If we take the actants, again simply being the computers, the optical networking technologies, the capacity for information and of course humans themselves, we can start to understand how the digital world or internet was constructed or assembled. Interestingly Shaviro, Stevens writes in, ‘DeLanda: A New Philosophy of Society’ about the importance of these actants, stating “the entities themselves are the absolutes.” While Steven’s writes about Margaret Thatcher’s well known quote, “there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and their families,” he later goes on to make an interesting point that the individual could never survive if it wasn’t for the society that he or she were living in.

Really the ‘Actor-Network Theory,’ can be applied to anything and in terms of ‘assemblage,’ it is important to understand even the most minimal contributions to any sort of process. Stevens writes how, “this is not to say that the entity is entirely determined by these relations.” Really the theory developed by Latour, can only really give insight to the development of a project, not to how this construction will effect society and will lead to change.

 

In some ways it has been absolutely fascinating to witness and grow up during the rise of the World Wide Web. Really, my generation has lived through a momentous past 20 years in terms of communications and publishing. The clip, “Internet of Things,” tells us that there are approximately 2 billion people connected via some medium to the Internet. It is estimated by 2020 that there will be close to 50 billion objects connected to the digital platform, averaging around 6 objects per person. It’s strange to think that while it took thousands of years to develop tools for publishing, specifically inventions such as the Gutenberg press, it has only been in the last 20 years that the world has developed a digital platform that is able to network such a large amount of people and create this global environment. There is no question that the Internet as such is the most important and effective mode of publishing to this day.

A documentary I watched recently that was quite interesting was “Page One,” which focused specifically on the rise of the internet and how in many ways the medium is making print journalism obsolete. The documentary focused on the New York Time and it’s financial problems as a result of the popularity of digital media. I found it quite amusing that the Times gave it a pretty dire review, writing “‘Page One’ careers around the aisles picking up this item and that one, ultimately coming home with three jars of peanut butter and no 2-percent milk.” Though the documentary was a tad vague and at times a bit repetitive, it did bring up some interesting points about this change. One of the key issues that they raised was the notion that if print media was dissolved, so would quality journalism. This lies behind the idea that if corporations such as the New York Times, were not able to pay anyone, there would be no one to perform the act of reporting quality and decent news.

Dan Gillmore from his article ‘The New York Times Paywall,’ explains how “there are few news organisations whose survival I consider essential; the Times is one. Which is why I take modest pleasure in the news that its new online subscription service isn’t failing. Last month, the paper announced it had more than doubled the number of paid digital subscribers to about 250,000, and that, overall, it had more than 1 million digital subscribers (including those paying for other editions, such as Kindle and print, who also get access to the website).” Ultimately, the documentary “Page One” and Dan Gillmore’s article allude to the idea that while the print medium may be on its way out, it is quintessential for quality journalism to continue in some form, Gillmore writing, “I want to pay for good work, and, in this case, I’m glad to do so.”

I remember meeting the Kindle for the first time just over two years ago. It was eloquently positioned atop a stack of books, although much like a new sibling or a dank patch of mould in the corner of the bathroom, the new gadget was at first treated by myself with much curiosity and skepticism. My Mum had been given it from Penguin following the launch of her latest book, the new tablet, an apparent solution to the book. Lynn Neary writes in ‘E-Book Boom Changes Book Selling and Publishing,’ “the traditional e-book, which means an e-book that just pretty much takes the print and transposes it to a digital device, and so you just are reading the print.” While I understood at the time the positive attributes of the Kindle, the hoarder and partial traditionalist inside me seemed strongly opposed to the notion of reading a digital book as such.

While for me there is nothing like physical experience of reading a living and breathing book, I do realise in this day and age  that it is impractical to be something of a neo-ludite. There is no denying that the increase in publishing platforms such as the kindle, the ipad and iphone to name but some have somewhat taken away from the power of print. The ‘Shatzkin Files’ by Mike Shatzkin explains how his father, “was active with significant publishers, the quarter century following World War II,” observing “that very few books actually took in less cash than they required,” so in this sense “just about every book brought back somewhat more revenue than it required to publish it.” According to ‘Productivewriters.com,’ the E-book sales were up 164.4% in 2010, showing clearly that the amount of print sales must be down as a result of this digital boom.

My Mum, Alison Stewart is finding it increasingly hard, not only to be published/ sell printed editions of her book, but to publish and promote herself and her work via means of the internet. Whilst she has had several books published in previous years, she has never experienced such pressure from her publishing agency in keeping up with her “virtual persona” as such. This is her site at Goodreads.com where she is constantly attending to comments and questions about her latest book “Days Like This,” http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/604016.Alison_Stewart.

Though her latest book does come in the form of an E-Book, she is quite unclear as to how the process is working as such. John Naughton talks about the “amount of control” these devices have over the reader in his article “The Original Big Brother is Watching you on Amazon Kindle.” The writer explains how these electronic texts “radically tilt the balance in favour of content-owners in a single decade.” While these devices are an improvement in terms of “ergonomics, portability and storage capacity,” it is still a bit of a worry that the reader and buyer does not have any physical ownership of the property, Naughton using an Orwell’s ‘1984’ in order to highlight how the current generation are “sleepwalking into a nightmare of perfect remote control.”