Archives: Beginnings and Future Implications

In Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Derrida begins by delving into a thorough history of what archiving is, and its origins. Although I found it difficult to follow the points the author tried to convey, I still came away having gained some valuable insight on the subject. Stemming from the Greek word “arkhé”, archiving is tied, in the reading, to the concepts of commencement and commandment, by Derrida. The Greek word originally referred to a house or domicile generally belonging to those who commanded, or had the political power to create or represent law. The term commencement refers to the overall origins of the practice of archiving, while commandment refers to the law governing the control of archives, and how our fear of forgetting plays a role. The concept of wanting to store and catalogue information from our pasts dates as far back as written language. Word of mouth was the only way to account for, and remember, our past prior to this point.

One of the main concepts that Derrida shed light on in the reading was that of the death drive / aggression drive / destruction drive; synonyms for the same phenomenon theorized by Sigmund Freud. Freudian psychoanalytic theory states that this drive, which is present in all of us, leads us towards a desire to restore the world back to the state it was in prior to our being. On this subject, Derrida stated, “it always operates in silence, it never leaves any archives of its own. It destroys in advance its own archive, as if that were in truth the very motivation of its most proper movement…the archive takes place at the place of originary and structural breakdown of the said memory.” He seems to be trying to convey that our destruction drive is ever present, even at the place of origin of an event we archive. Our personal biases and subconscious motives alter our remembrance of an event, thereby altering the archive. We stand idly by with no knowledge that this takes place, while our compulsion to keep record presses on. Essentially, Freud postulates that we want to return things to a more inorganic state through unbinding, dissolution, and dissociation.

With the advent of the more technologically advanced age we live in, archiving has taken on new meaning. Keeping track of the past is still its central focus, but the restrictions governing the recording, accessibility, and amount of available knowledge have changed drastically. Through the Internet our ability to archive is virtually limitless. Pun intended. Text messages, emails, posts on social media networks, etc; it is all recorded and saved, either for your viewing, your friends viewing, or the worlds viewing (class discussion). What sort of implications does this have in regards to the way we create, store, and access important information in the future? Do we really want to be able to better relive past emotional responses as they relate to the events of our lives? Or is it possible that our skewed nostalgic remembrances would end up being healthier for our mental and emotional development?




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