Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WS: Erasures and Obsolescence

In Anna’s lecture today, I found the comparison between Cornelia Visemann and Lisa Gitelman incredibly fascinating, seeing particularly provocative correlations between the two theorists’ work. Both theorists take up the issue of memory and the ability to forget, or as Anna pointed to, “misremember”.  For Visemann, erasure is not simply a deletion, but also a means of forgetting, whose saving grace comes from “forgetting or deleting what has been recorded in the files or accordingly in the book of life” (Visemann 104). For Gitelman , seems to be pointing to an erasure of obsolescence, or rather a disappearance. So what is the difference between forgetting and a disappearing (if there is one) – between erasure of data and the erasure of obsolescence?

Could this tension be found in what Visemann would refer to as the “void of the symbolic order” or rather, what can we make of this seeming tension? The tension that seems to exist between these two concepts is something that I would like to further discuss in section, perhaps looking to the emergence of “Error 404: File Not Found,” which seems to address the relation between these temporalities in engaging ways.

If there is a simultaneous desire for a perpetual present, an obsession with updates, as Gitelman argues and a feverish desire to archive, for an eternal and all knowing past, then what remains. The trace of such actions or the phantoms of obsolescence/erasure seem to lurk behind these discussions as well as temporal relations which perhaps address different users of digital media. What promises do each of these temporal relations hold?

How can we think of decay in this media, especially in terms of the “perishable quality of the web,” and the compulsory updates? In what ways do both of these temporalities freeze time? In the following passage, Gitelman seems to channel Visemann in her line of questioning, perhaps shedding insight into the productivity in the dialogue between these two texts:

 “When users view pages from the past, captured to the archive’s present servers, the relative extent and completeness of each past page is never obvious. Where will the edges and the empty ‘data islands’ of each past document on the present Web be found” (Gitelman 137)?


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