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Archival Spaces

Memory, Images, History

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 8:57PM   |  3 comments

By Jan Christopher Horak, UCLA Film  & Television Archive 

 According to Michael Foucault, the totality of intellectual activity over time within a given culture constitutes the archive of human knowledge. The archive in the real world gathers together in physical form the articulations of our culture, whether books, papers, films, video, art objects, and all other accumulations of human labor. Archives generate history.

Archive, libraries, and museums, then, have always been somewhat sacred places where we go to find the raw data for historical inquiry, where (re)searchers study and examine objects to seek the truth.

The creation of the internet, however, has changed all that. With each passing day, more and more objects are being digitized, knowledge from the physical world is losing its corporality. The Archive is now virtual, rather than physical.

The question is, how does knowledge change in cyberspace?

 


3 Comments

We live in a day and age where information is being reallocated at a rate previously unheard of. The emergence of the internet presents an ever-expanding portal to information with no boundaries; anything (yes, ANYTHING) can be found online. Naturally, this has ushered in an entirely new set of rules for the accessibility and consumption of information. In these modern times it is almost expected to fill gaps in knowledge by researching them on Wikipedia, something I can fully attest as a student who frequently makes use of this tool for school purposes. The increasingly instant accessibility of this information brings with it a sea change in the way in which it is utilized. Users now have the opportunity to acquire a superficial knowledge on a topic that may have previously been unknown. This reformatting of storage has extended into nearly all forms of media. Archived article clippings are now available on websites of major magazines due to the slow but impending death of print media. The music industry has been completely revolutionized by the introduction of the iPod and music downloads. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that another major component is being redefined. The preservation of films from the early years of filmmaking has been difficult due to the limited lifespan of the materials on which they are stored. An example for this is Fritz Lang’s famous work “Metropolis”, which had been viewed in incomplete form until 2008 when a version was discovered that contained previously unseen footage. In this digitalized age, preservation of films takes on an entirely new form with films being converted from film to household DVDs and ultimately ending up in pirated digital form. In many cases films are released with the sole intention of being viewed and hosted online. Films such as Babak Amini’s “On That Day” are game-changers like this: filmed, edited, and released online for general viewing. The problems of degradation are eliminated since the piece is stored digitally on a server.
Predicting the future is never an easy task. That said, observable tendencies and trends indicate that film is no exception in the change that is taking place in the aggregation of information. Knowledge of history will be more accessible than ever before and with more and more information being explicitly released in digital form it is not unfeasible to assume that the internet will continue to serve as a central database for all things relevant to society.

I don't think that knowledge changes much in cyberspace. Although it is obviously an entirely different medium with an entirely different way of storing information, I think it is only another step in the evolution of our technology. We think of physical film, or physical videotape as being more "real", and sure, if you look really closely at film you can see the images. But to make it an actual moving picture you would need a projector, in the same way that you need a computer to play a DVD.

There is no indestructible medium. You can smash a server and the files are destroyed, but you can burn film and the it is also destroyed. If anything, digital storage allows for us to more easily backup the things that we want to keep in multiple locations around the world - made even easier with the internet.

We will still be learning the same knowledge in the future, it will just be much easier accessed than before.

For one, knowledge is much more accessible, which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. From an educational standpoint, the accessibility of knowledge is wonderful. From a negative standpoint it can enable copyright infringement and piracy. It can also cheapen the value of original documents. For example, I both love and loathe the idea behind e-books. I recently couldn't find a particular book that I wanted to read absolutely anywhere, so in a few seconds I downloaded it to my iPad for half the price. However, how is that at all like reading a real book? Will there come a day when we don't value physical artifacts like books anymore? Probably--which sometimes petrifies me. I love having shelves and shelves of books to display almost as badges of achievement. I can lend these to friends, take them with me wherever I go, and, perhaps most importantly, they don't require batteries. If books (as well as other tangible artifacts) don't exist outside of cyberspace they can lose their essence, and we can no longer engage in an activity that has remained the same since our great grandfathers were children and beyond.



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