Wednesday, April 2, 2008

History and archiving

I guess the point is that our society has defined itself through history since the invention of writing, because that kind of information dates itself. Archiving, then, evolved as a method of qualifying and quantifying the different kinds of history we have been able to keep over the centuries. The interesting thing about internet archiving is that it acquires its time in a different way. Historical archiving, like in a library, sets time before the information as it is inscribed (or as cartesian object, as one of those people wrote). That is, although our sense of time is produced by history, we impose our idea of time upon our history as we archive it. I should probably have used the word "diachronic" somewhere in there. On the internet, on the other hand, information alters its own time--it can move back and forth (from the right angle, the Wayback Machine allows you to look into the past) at will, and its relevance and historical context are determined to a large extent by the manner in which it's presented--that is, the way the page is set up, the browser you're using, the format of the text, et cetera. And we shouldn't forget that the internet often lies. This seems another aspect of the decentering that Jameson is usually so happy about. I imagine we'll see all kinds of horror come out of the historical re-creation that will become more and more common as globalization takes stronger hold, but good things will happen as well. For example, like one of those other people was talking about, universal access to archived history out of context will alter societies as they come into contact with each other's cultural artifacts in this bizarre version of a library, and new communities do interesting things, when they're not stupid ones.

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