The Knowledge of Knowledge Is Power

It is actually quite difficult to imagine that during the time humans have existed, that we would ever have come even a little close to collecting and recording all of the information there is to know. And because of that, knowledge is power. However, while that phrase is commonplace, the idea that the knowledge of knowledge is power is perhaps less obvious (and not just because it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well). Who decides what “knowledge” is? Whoever decides that then, indirectly, controls what information goes into an archive. This is very important, for the knowledge that goes into an archive is the most powerful knowledge of all, because it exists.

Halberstam argues that such traditionally lowbrow things (Spongebob gets a mention here) is not necessarily considered to be on the same level as things like the Constitution or the Magna Carta. And while Spongebob’s adventures may not have laid the foundation for democracy, it is still a reflection of humans in one way or another and ought be included in the archive. Halberstam is arguing that what hasn’t been said or archived yet is just as important as what has. What isn’t included shows a lot about the people who define knowledge. Manoff uses the example of the original Oxford English Dictionary using only examples by male authors and writers to help explain the meanings of words. This led to less inclusion of works by female authors into the literally canon. Manoff writes, “a very different series of attributes for women might have been produced is the dictionary had included citations from.. any number of women writers” (12). What is included in an archive is what has been decided is “knowledge.” And since things like Spongebob aren’t included in the archive, Halberstam makes the case that “traditional” knowledge does indeed exist in “silly knowledge”: she states in her interview that “they are open texts, in the sense that they do not come with a readymade theory already embedded within them.”  Scholars like herself, she implies, will have to explore the “silly knowledge” to add them to the archive, much like how Manoff writes that archivists and historians also dig deep into what isn’t there, or what hasn’t been important enough to be considered knowledge, in order to find a complete history of the world (8).

As we can no longer deny the importance of a complete knowledge, we must also move to include more than what is included in the past “knowledge” to allow things like “comic books, romance novels, and even video games” to be explored and analyzed by scholars so that the knowledge they hold inside them can be let out to join the party at the archive (14). The definition of knowledge is changing as I write this. Soon one day museums may have framed tweets on the wall, and archivists may be poring over someone’s gchats to discover a dangerous and important secret that may change the world ( or just that someone is very bored at work). Pages like Museum of Internet are already (and non-professionally) working to archive the knowledge of the internet. The “knowledge” presented here may not be traditional, but it reflects a subculture and an aesthetic that reflects humans. Manoff and Halberstam have realized the same thing: that knowledge is something not that humans pick, but something that humans are.

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