Archive Fever

To define an archive in simple terms, it is the organisation of information to be easily accessed for later reference.  As humans, we can only remember so much, so I guess the term ‘archive fever’ is warranted when talking about our obsession with archives.  Where would we be without archives?  I think it’s safe to say that our civilisation would be light years behind technologically.  The ability to record information for future reference has been central to society’s progress.  As Derrida points out, there would indeed be no archive desire without the possibility of forgetfulness (Enszer, 2008)

Traditional archives of historic importance, as Sharon Howard points out in her article, Archive Fever; A Dusty Digression (2007), are made up of material that was deemed as being important at the time.  The restrictions of space mean that obviously not everything can be saved.  The important distinction between this type of archiving and the archiving we have today in the digital world is the ability for everything to be archived.  Mathew Ogle (2007), suggests that the ‘real time web’ that we have adopted over a relatively short period of time is keeping a constant archive of content without us even realising it.  So the key distinction is that everything is being archived, not just content that is deemed important.  No wonder Derrida uses the term ‘archive fever’

Historically archives decided what was ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of culture.  Some things were kept some things destroyed, thus enabling the generation of the time to depict themselves as they wanted to be seen by the generations that followed.  With the rise of the internet, or ‘real time web’ as Ogle puts it, we do not have that same privilege.  Jon Stokes (2003) describes the internet as a giant public archive with privately owned Google as its de facto interface.  This is a potentially concerning statement if we consider how archives traditionally distinguish what is inside and outside of culture.  

Of course a more optimistic approach would suggest that this is a good thing.  For the first time in history, we are able to archive everything.  Traditionally, archives had authority; they were considered as authentic documents that were the definitive record.  With the internet archiving everything, how does this impact on the authority of archives?  I think that it can be said that archives will continue to maintain authority depending on their provenance.  Official documents will always hold authority over those produced by amateurs; however I think that the internet has promoted archiving for individuals, and I guess archives will only become more personalised as the internet continues archiving records that are relevant to the individuals who created them.


Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <;

 Howard, Sharon (2007) ‘Reposted: Archive fever (a dusty digression)’, Early Modern Notes, September 25, <;

 Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’,, December 16,

Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27, <;


Actor Network Theory and Assemblages

Actor Network theory is a theory that attempts to understand the relationship between semiotic and material components which form networks, otherwise known as assemblages.  The theory’s primary concern is understanding how assemblages form, and either stay together or fall apart.   

From the Wikipedia article, there are a few key points that could be used to illustrate actor-network theory in more understandable terms.  Firstly, actor-network theory assumes that many relations are both material and semiotic.  When examined closely, it is true that we as humans have various relations to the environment which surrounds us, which is made up of largely objects.  Objects have a purpose, and our relationship with them varies depending on the context of a situation, thus potentially transforming their symbolic meaning.

The application of actor-network theory when examining situations attempts to consider all elements equally.  This is based on the idea of a flat ontology, where all elements of the network contribute equally to what is termed an assemblage.

To think about assemblages in relation to publishing more specifically, their relevance becomes apparent.  To make something public is dependent on both human and non-human components within a network.  The technologies which make communications possible are integral to the network in which they exist.  Whilst humans are vital for the creation of content in the first place, actor-network theory would imply that all elements are equally important within the network. 

Under the presumptions of actor-network theory, the simple task of drawing a picture for example would consider equally important the individual or artist, the pencil, paper, table, chair, lighting etc… 

An important point of actor network theory is that it considers all assemblages as being transient.   This means that if just one of these equally important actants was to be eliminated from the assemblage, it would begin to dissolve, thus explaining the transient nature of assemblages.  In the example of a drawing, if the table actant was removed, the quality of the drawing would likely be diminished.


‘Actor Network Theory’, Wikipedia,

‘A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity’, Wikipedia.

Week 2 Blog; Modes of Publishing

In thinking about modes of publishing, it has to be said that we are at a point of transition.  There seems to be a steady move towards digital modes of publishing, which offer more diversity at a number of levels in comparison to traditional media outlets, particularly print.

What I mean by diversity is the array of platforms available online, which enable just about anyone to publish.  The trend towards digital publishing has effectively lead to the rise of the amateur through the convenience of using easily accessible platforms such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to publish our lives online for the world to see.

I have long been cynical of Facebook and Twitter, however there is no doubting that these online platforms have both been significant in assisting the process of decentralising where the power resides in the world of publishing.  You just have to read the submission guidelines for Pan Macmillan to get a grasp of the restraints placed upon what material can be published.  At this corporate end of publishing, there is obviously a stringent level of professionalism that the company must adhere to, which is obviously of particular importance in order to distinguish professionalism from amateurism.

John Naughton (2010) makes reference to this in relation to e-books, highlighting the importance of publisher’s enhancing their technological competencies to distinguish themselves from amateurs.  He goes on to predict that in the future there will always be books, but publishers are questionable.  

This trend is not only applicable to the publishing of books.  As YouTube has risen to prominence the roles of publishers and audience have been completely reversed.  No longer is society dependent on the establishment for entertainment. 

News is not immune from this power reversal either as demonstrated by the New York Times Paywall system.  To increase its reader following, the Times created an optional ‘paywall’ whereby the reader receives free content from the days news and then has the option of paying for content after they pass the ‘paywall’ point.  I should emphasis the word optional, because the reader doesn’t have to pay if they don’t want to. 

The shift to online news is arguably the biggest contributor to this trend.  As news becomes more readily available for free, the New York Times are relying more on their readers to value quality and pay for content that they would have otherwise paid for in a tangible newspaper.  Dan Gilmore (2011) has claimed that there will be an epic struggle for newspapers to maintain revenue in online formats into the future.  This is the problem newspapers face simply because they must employ a journalist whilst competing with the vast array of outlets that exist online.

In conclusion, I think it is fitting to assume that the transition in publishing is only just beginning.  I think that as new modes of publishing arise, the power will shift further towards the audience.  Hopefully this will foster more creativity and force established and professional publishers in all their forms to improve the quality of their publications, but I guess only time will tell.


Gillmore, D (2011) ‘How The New York Times Paywall is Working’, Wired, August 14

Naughton, J (2010) ‘Publishers Take Note; The Ipad is Altering the Very Concept of a Book’The Guardian,December, 19

Pan Macmillan Submission Guidlines,

ARTS2090 Blog 1- Content Ownership and Consumer Rights

Content ownership is of particular concern when looking at the transition between traditional forms of publications in comparison to newer digitised formats.  The key issue that I would like to focus on is just what rights do those in the possession of content have?

The potential concerns over content ownership were illustrated when Amazon discovered that a distributer on its website had sold copies of a publication without having the legal right to do so (Naughton, 2009).  Amazon acted swiftly removing all traces of the publication from its website as well as removing any traces of the publication from the e-readers of subscribers and refunding them. 

As this example demonstrates, it seems that as e-readers make way for several benefits for consumers, they also entail certain restrictions that can be placed upon them by distributors.  This occurrence obviously raises significant questions as to the rights of consumers when it comes to digital publications, which have not been relevant in the past.

 Traditional print publishing has meant that content is solely in the possession of the purchaser for them to do with it, what they like, assuming that doesn’t breach potential copyright laws.  With the sudden rise of e-readers it seems that the access of publications has been made easier, yet those who hold the rights to publish and distribute have increased power to control content once in the hands of the consumer.

 It poses the question as to whether or not platforms such as Amazon should reserve the right to alter or even delete content that is paid for by its customers.  It is easy to say that they should not, but perhaps this is the price consumers will pay for cheaper and convenient access to content via e-readers. 

It is important to remember the potential benefits that come with e-books.  For some e-reader publications, particularly those of an academic nature, publishers can continually alter and update content to reflect current knowledge in a particular field.  As highlighted by Naughton (2010), what we traditionally considered a book is now being completely transformed. 

E-books are also enabling online social communities to share content and comment on publications amongst fellow readers.  This new technology known as ‘social books’ (Wotham, 2010) could also raise questions over content ownership as users are enabled to share sections of publications to other users online who access the content for free.  This of course could be a positive for publishers who are getting free endorsements from readers.

So it seems e-books have led to new freedoms for readers, yet at the same time have created restrictions to their use of content.  It would seem that in a digitised world where content is not ‘tangible’ like a printed book, the rights of consumers are difficult to define.







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