The Meaning of Archive: Support for Remixing

While Derrida’s discussion of the origins and principles of archive are far from interpretations surrounding our class discussion of the legality of remixing, the meanings he offers along with his supporting arguments provide interesting evidence for this present day phenomenon.

Let me begin at the beginning of Derrida’s discussion, page 1, where I found the most interesting piece of meaning for archive; that is to say that the origin of archive lies in two rather than one principles.  He explains that the meaning of archive is not just the principle according to nature or history, there where things commence, but rather that to archive also utilizes the principle according to the law, there where men and gods command.  Thus we can draw that the fundamental meaning of archive is both to commence, to create the archive, as well as to command, to instill authority and legality in what is being archived, or created.

The problem, as Derrida states, with archiving is that we forget these principles.   Let me now interpret how his additional evidence supports the ideas brought forth in RIP:  A Remix Manifesto as a path to understanding what Derrida finds as the meaning of archive.

As he continues the introduction of Archive Fever, Derrida examines that archives take place, exist rather, in the commandment principle—they cannot fully exist merely in the commencement of one’s memory creating them, but rather must be given a method for which to have authority.  An archive also, must unify; consign; give meaning to what is being archived, it cannot merely propose a theory without having some form of physical existence.  These ideas, the ideas of an archives creation, form the original.  Yet, as original, archived material is re-used, re-mixed by another in a creative sense, is it not also begin archived into an original?  This leads me to the connection I realized between Derrida’s definitions and RIP: A Remix Manifesto.

While I could go through and examine each example in response to this question I unraveled, I found that the greatest response begins on page 7.  Here, Derrida suggests that all archives are an ‘eco-nomic’ archive, suggesting in my opinion that an archive in and of itself, holding an economic value, would preserve the ability for future generations to utilize these archived materials to create new archives, greater economic value for their generation.  To build on what their predecessors have created in order to evolve, much like the fundamental idea of technological science, as Derrida later points out is to evolve, do things faster, spread information, and create greater opportunities.

Technology, email as Derrida discusses, has dramatically changed the method in which we archive.  It has enabled anyone to instantaneously commence and command an idea, archive it, and spread it as their original idea to anyone else.  Thus it has created an ability to archive more and in greater detail, however it has also contributed to the fundamental problem of archiving, the forgetfulness of both principles.  Email enables the user to, knowingly or unknowingly, copy someone else’s archived material and reclaim it as their own which reiterates the problem our society faces of copyright.  Without knowledge of an existing archive, what determines if someone utilizing the technology has created a new or modified an existing archive.  If the idea is to fundamentally change an existing archive to mean something different, as examined in RIP:  A Remix Manifesto, can it be claimed as a new archive?

Derrida’s ideas along with my own interpretations lead me to believe that anything archived, according to both principles, something truly created, either completely new, or built utilizing a previous archive, is an archive.  Considering Derrida’s ideas through the lens of RIP:  A Remix Manifesto, do you agree that Derrida’s meaning supports or instead contradicts the manifesto?

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