memory, archive and sources

Bowker claims that the act of remembering gives no guarantee that the thing will ever be remembered. While this is true, he ignores the bit that A was remembered and not B, meaning that while A might possibly be remembered, B will not. With a limited archive (and we are not omnipotent by any means – regardless of a database’s ability to store, we do not know how to record/archive anywhere near all) there is necessarily limited data to remember.

And this brings me to a comment that a doctoral candidate at the NYU media ecology program said about McLuhan Noam Chomsky in regard to quoting. Roughly, “we quote those people/books/lines that we have (easy) access to.” She quotes from the Chomsky book that she has on her shelf and she has it on her shelf as it is the canonical volume. Similarly, I quote Bourdieu’s Outline of a Theory of Practice instead of The Logic of Practice because it is on my shelf. We retrieve from the archive only that which was stored; we retrieve from the archive that which was stored in a more accessible manner.

Two and a half years ago a professor told me that communication was about the storage and retreival of information. Technically, I wasn’t in a Communication program at the time (it was Media Ecology/Media, Culture and Communication) and so didn’t think much of the comment. In truth, I didn’t understand the depth and importance of the comment. Communication, in a lot of ways, is about information that has been stored in some way and is/must be retreived in some way. The details are where the study begins. Hence, communication necessitates an archive: library, bookshelf, memory, history et cetera.

This is of course where we return to the concepts of storage (remembering) and retreival (re-membering). We focus so much on the storage capacity and the speed at which we retreive information, but we don’t seem to focus on exactly what is put down into storage. We know we don’t get everything, but we don’t ever really deal with this. Why? Why is there so little work done on the act of remembering especially when it is turned out into the realm of collective memory and history. Is it to naturalize the details remembered? Is it to hide the production? Or any of the other plethora of answers that are possible.

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