Archive: A Metaphorical Time Machine

Archive has such a different meaning from person to person, depending on the context, and in terms of the time period being discussed. Derrida opens with an upfront definition of “archive,” stemming from the word “arkhé,” and how their meanings drifted  apart – or were forgotten.

Derrida moves to relate archiving to Freud’s work. He mentions Freud’s theory on the destruction, death, or aggression drive, decimating any archive of its own before it is even created. An archive is a means to escape one’s forgetfulness. As a society, we are obsessed with holding on to every memory of our past, be it our personal past or the catastrophic or groundbreaking events happening globally. If left to the death drive, these links of events will distort, being undocumented and forgotten, leaving our stream of memories to wither and die. This is seen through any law in Congress, in the Bill of Rights, or any official documentation; if these pieces were not crafted to be upheld, they would be ignored, overlooked, and unrecognized.

Derrida also mentions how Freud’s house, being transformed into a museum, is an archive of his life, an archive of his books, sketches, notes, and the like. His house became an archive because of the subject matter inside; his house conceals works and material that certain people utilize, share, argue, and remix. His work is important, and any type of archive must also be important in some respect, desirable, or will risk being forgotten – or submitted to oblivion.

Technology has expanded since the first form of archiving to the present day. Derrida discusses how email has made archiving much more convenient, quick, and worldwide. instead of waiting days to receive a handwritten letter in the mail, an email can arrive within seconds (not as instant as in 2013, but still quicker than in the 90s). Since email has become a worldwide medium for archiving information, there have been several other means of archiving: blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, to name a few. There is a blog on the internet for every topic anyone could ever think about, (cooking, exploration, news, advice, etc.) with tags that make searching for these blogs instantaneous. People feed off of the idea of being able to store any type of information on the internet, with the expectation of it being saved forever – being able to travel back in time to a specific point documented before. Anything from a text post like this, to photographs, videos, quotes, or links to other resources can be uploaded for the world to have at its disposal. Facebook is a blog of one’s life – curing the need for constant attention for some, while fueling the need to snoop in the business of “friends” for others. Twitter is the same way as Facebook, only offers more of a live feed to the world of your followers, through mainly text posts or links to photos, videos, or external websites.

This was a hard read to get into and fully understand, albeit I believe we all took a little something different away from it because of this. My question for discussion has to do with Derrida’s comment on having an archive be something that needs to be shared with others, one that is with consignation. Keeping this theory in mind, would you classify a personal diary as an archive – or would it not fit the criteria? Must an archive be public domain or can one exist and thrive in a microcosm?


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