Traditional v Digital Archives #Desire

29 Mar


Consider CMSs (content management systems), such as WordPress, YouTube, BlackBoard, those of particular newspapers online, the library catalogue, etc. How do they archive? How do they organize publishing? Possible actions? Forms of access?

Technically speaking, Digital CMSs (listed above) have a complex assemblage of archives. There are many digital ‘actants’ within the media platform. For example, the Internet software, file upload software, typing/audio/camera software, advertisements, the creators/users/viewers of the archives and many more. Each of these actants are necessary for building archives within a CMS such as Youtube. In contrast, traditional archives have a much narrower assemblage, as they do not require as many actants to make up the archive. If I wanted to make a photo album I would only need two main actants – photos and an album.  But if I wanted to make a photo album on Facebook I would need many different soft wares to create and publish the digital archive. In terms of organizing publishing, although YouTube, Blogs and BlackBoard have forms of censoring, anyone can organise the way the want to publish. As Andrew Murphie discussed in the lecture, we live in a society of “produsers” (producers and users). I could essentially become a user of YouTube by becoming a member, a producer by making my own movie, and a publisher by publishing it on YouTube.

What is this archive (in terms of digital archives) instituting?

Derrida views archives as the basis for what counts within both society and even perhaps our sense of ourselves. In terms of what digital archives institute and their importance, refer to the YouTube video I posted below titled ‘The Importance of Digital Archives’.

What new “inside” and “outside” do digital archives constitute?

Modern-day archives and publishing platforms have enabled ‘inside’ personal memories exist on the ‘outside,’ free for a global audience to share and experience. For example, the hurricane digital memory bank ( stores personal accounts, on-scene images, blog postings and podcasts of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. This digital archive has opened up the space for anyone to access and contribute memories. Although it can be argued, as Matt Ogle discussed, that certain digital archives focus on the ‘now’ (for example Twitter, Facebook and Youtube), closing off the past because of its constant, fast past character. They still open-up the possibilities for global audiences to contribute and even alter online published archives (for example, one could comment on someone’s Facebook photo from February last year, which then could have be ‘liked’ by someone yesterday.)

What do they Destroy?

Although digital archiving and publishing has completely revolutionised the way we store our past and may dominate globally “one can therefore no longer speak of an Asian, European or American technical system”(Stiegler 2003). Digital archiving has, in a sense, destroyed the sense of historical discovery. We have shifted from, as the Sharon points out in ‘early modern notes’, valuing archives as a place of “dreams” and “discovery.” Modern-day society desire (even demand) our archives to be readily available with a click of a button. Parikka discusses Ernt’s “media archaeology” and how we live in a society of “technoarchives”. He believes that the “length of storage is becoming increasingly more short term.” Digital publishing corporations, particularly online news cycles, have destroyed the authoritative value of archives as we are so concentrated on creating present news and wiping out the old.

Further more, in a literal sense – digital archives have a risk of being destroyed in a second! If one’s computer broke down, all the archives within it (photos, documents, data etc) risk being wiped. Physical libraries filled with data, documents and photo albums do not have this risk of being destroyed instantly. Yes, they are spatially bound to their location, but they are permanent. This applies the same way for digital and physical publishing corporations. A digital publishing entity such as YouTube could potentially have a network ‘melt down’ where as a physical publishing house such as Random House has the authority of physical disposition – once they print a book it can’t suddenly disappear because it was not properly ‘saved’ in a digital archive.


Howard, S 2005, Reposted: Archive fever: a dusty digression, Early Modern Notes, accessed 28 March 2013, <;

Ogle, M 2010, Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real time web, accessed 28 March 2013, <;

Parikka, Jussi 2013, ‘Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology’ in Ernst, Wolfgang Digital Memory and the Archive Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 1-22

Stiegler, B 2001, Our Ailing Educational Institutions, Culture Machine, accessed 28 March 2013, <>


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