72 archive & memory (3)
operationality. Official cultural heritage institutions are the ones that have to struggle with archival guidelines in the sense of restoring old computers: do you keep them in the found state, as original as possible, but without functionality, or try to restore them to operational status but then lose some of their ‘historical authenticity’?
3 Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (2011) Programmed Visions. Software and Memory. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
This issue becomes more complex with software: what is software, where do you find it, what is the relation of software to its execution, its hardware, its situation, etc.? Where do you start the preservation work? In this sense, the future of software is an open question, as it has a different meaning to permanence. Some media theorists such as Wendy Chun have been excellent in outlining this ephemerality that relates to the materiality of software.3 In short, Chun is able to flag the constant conflation of storage and memory, which compounds the difficulty of actually investigating the specific machinic life of memory. Memory degenerates, and it does not automatically mean the same as storage. Paraphrasing Chun, digital technologies are introducing a paradoxical endurance of the ephemeral, a degeneration at the heart of supposed digital permanence. It relates to software, it relates to technical media, all of which have to be seen in terms of their processuality. I think that, in a way, Chun also accounts for the fact that a lot of the models for technical prosthetics of memory, like Vannevar Bush’s Memex, are idealisations that often forget the more entropic side of memory machines: they are physical, they need maintenance, there is no eternal storage. Interestingly, this is the other side to the fear that ‘nothing will be lost, ever’, which overshadows social media datamining and storage practices as part of the big data capitalism of the Facebook era.
4 Paul Demarinis (2011) Erased Dots and Rotten Dashes, or How to Wire Your Head for a Preservation. In Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications, edited by Jussi Parikka. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
I think we should focus more closely on this notion of degeneration, as picked up by Paul Demarinis.4 As he shows, memory in the technical age is about ‘relay and delay’. Memory circulates; it’s the magnetic flux that makes hard drives memory devices, and facilitates the movement of data across physical transmission channels. A disembodi-
Published on Aug 1, 2013
There is a growing understanding of the use of technological tools for dissemination or mediation in the museum, but artistic experiences th...