Returning to archives

For my book I’ve just been returning to some earlier work I did in archives and archiving. In the book I wrote with Nick Gane we used archive as a concept for looking at developments in new media. I’m trying to build on this with the current chapter I’m writing. In particular it’s been great going back to Mike Featherstone’s two articles on archives.

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These articles track the changes in archives, and use the concept to show how archival forms have moved out to order mainstream culture. These articles contain a number of insights into the power of archives to shape collective memory and to divide lives into recorded singularities. The advantage of using archives as a concept like this is that it allows us to see how the organisation of culture feeds into power structures and hierarchies. Perhaps the most important observation made by Featherstone though is that we should place the walks of the archive around everyday life.

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This opens up a range of options for thinking about how different types of archive are used, organised and contributed to in the routines of everyday life. So, although Featherstone was writing 12 years ago, we can use this observation to understand things like Facebook and YouTube (I developed this in the new media book and also here and here). In case they are of any interest here are some questions I use with my students when discussing Featherstone’s articles:

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