Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Cornelia Vismann, in her essay “Out of File, Out of Mind,” discusses the status of erasures in digital data storage, marking a shift where the act of script cancellation was itself canceled and the desire for total documentation became an obsession in digital data collecting and archiving. Thus, the archive was situated as “borderline-institutions of the imaginary,” where the ability and desire to preserve was perhaps fueled by the fear of the destruction of 'important' files or files that would one day be useful, for what electronic data deletion brings the threat of is information that is “irretrievably lost”. This desire to preserve provided the archive as an imagined means of a complete, ful and perfected memory.

Yet, as much as one might fear the deletion of one’s iTunes library or digital photo albums, Vismann posits a hope in deletion, a “prerequisite for salvation,” offering an escape from what might be seen as a an debilitating, perpetual need to archive. Vismann writes:

“Deliverance means – in a bureaucratic as well as in a religious context – forgetting or deleting what has been recorded in the files or accordingly in the book of life. In other and more profane words: out of file, out of the world contains a promise of salvation, however unfullfilable it will be in the end” (104).

In section, I would like to explore the potential of digital “wastepaper,” whose expulsion fails to facilitate language within the symbolic (Vismann 100). What potential can be found in the "void of the symbolic order"? It would seem that Vismann is parallelling the saving power of file deletion to the dreams that would characterize the very possibilities of archiving, highlighting the tension or "void" between the two. For what is important to the status of the files marked as wastepaper is its relation to the archive. If the archive can be thought of as alluding to a promise (the storage of data for a future unknown moment of necessity), then in what ways does the deletion complicate these promises? How can we think of the archive as not only freezing time in many ways, but also as always pointing to a future that will perhaps never come and how can we then make sense of Vismann's hope of a salvation through the potentiality of deletion?


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