The Scholastic Selfie

For the sake of archivization, we need to put aside our judgmental attitudes and feelings of superiority and accept different aspects of life as they are. Only then can we acknowledge genuine archives in the world.

Manoff says, “Many researchers have made the case that archives are not neutral or innocent.” Yet with the abundance of archives and the different methods of archivization, this seems like a huge generalization. Personally, I love reality TV. I know many “reality” shows are scripted and fake, but then there are some that are actually real. For example, “Big Brother,” which has been on every summer for thirteen years, is a show that takes thirteen people and puts them in a house that is monitored by hundreds of cameras and microphones for ninety days. Contestants are evicted each week and, while in the house, they have no contact to the outside world. There is a “live feed” that plays on the Internet 24/7. While I understand that the isolation may hinder this show from being an accurate archive of the world we live in, I believe that the psychological component and demonstration human behavior is documented without bias.

The first week or so, the contestants may be more reserved, but it is impossible to put on an act all day every day for three months. There is a lot of controversy that comes with the show, which, to me, only proves its neutrality. For example, on the live feed this year, people have been outraged at the abundance of racist remarks and the jovial mention of child pornography by some contestants. Not until the contestants leave the house do they know that the comment they said to their friend at 2 am has caused people across the country to react. So, while I agree that shows like the “Real Housewives” do not accurately portray housewives in different cities across the United States, I think that innocence and neutrality may still be maintained in some of our archives.

Halberstam, on the other hand, seems to understand the fact that while shows like Big Brother focus on crazy people competing for crazy prizes, that’s just the world we live in. Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, this is our world. I recently heard that the word “selfie” is now in the Dictionary. When I heard this, I just laughed and moved on. However, this supports Halberstam’s argument. Selfies may be something to laugh at and mock, yet they are a big enough part of our culture that scholars now define them. Whether we like it or not, selfies are archives. Halberstam seems to draw upon this point while defining eccentric and subjugated knowledge. She says, “We must validate different kind of concepts and move to different archives… Rather then just saying that subjugated knowledge is knowledge that has been suppressed… we need to understand subjugated knowledge as a form of thinking that has been suppressed. It is a set of topics that have become unimaginable as scholarly topics.” While we may not watch Big Brother or learn how to take selfies in school, these are legitimate forms of archivization and, thus, knowledge that we must accept.

So think about it, are shows and pictures that we roll our eyes at what is defining our generation? Will these aspects of our lives be looked back on in years to come like we reflect on Woodstock and Elvis  (both of which were controversial in the past but cherished today), or will we just be laughed at? Are we making meaningless archives, or are we just expressing ourselves, and archiving our lives, in ways not used before?

– TS


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