“Like quilting, archiving employs the obsessive stitching together of many small pieces into a larger vision, a personal attempt at ordering a chaotic world. It’s not such a far leap from the quiltmaker to the stamp collector or book collector. Walter Benjamin, an obsessive collector himself, wrote about the close connection between collecting and making in his essay “Unpacking My Library”: “Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals — the whole range of childlike modes of acquisition, from touching things to giving them names.” In Benjaminan terms, all of these impulses — making, collecting & archiving — can be construed as folk practices.
Let’s add to that the organizing of digital materials. The advent of digital culture has turned each one of us into an unwitting archivist. From the moment we used the “save as” command when composing electronic documents, our archival impulses began. “Save as” is a command that implies replication; and replication requires more complex archival considerations: where do I store the copy? Where is the original saved? What is the relationship between the two? Do I archive them both or do I delete the original?
When our machines become networked, it gets more complicated. When we take that document and email it to a friend or professor, our email program automatically archives a copy of both the email we sent as well as duplicating our attachment and saving it into a “sent items” folder. If that same document is sent to a listserv, then that identical archival process is happening on dozens — perhaps even thousands — of machines, this time archived as a “received item” on each of those email systems. When we, as members of that listserv, open that attachment, we need to decide if — and then where — to save it.
I could go on, but you get the point. Writing on an electronic platform is not only writing, but also doubles as archiving; the two processes are inseparable.“
According to Linda Holmes on NPR, you will miss everything (at least in cultural terms):
“Consider books alone. Let’s say you read two a week, and sometimes you take on a long one that takes you a whole week. That’s quite a brisk pace for the average person. That lets you finish, let’s say, 100 books a year. If we assume you start now, and you’re 15, and you are willing to continue at this pace until you’re 80. That’s 6,500 books, which really sounds like a lot.
Let’s do you another favor: Let’s further assume you limit yourself to books from the last, say, 250 years. Nothing before 1761. This cuts out giant, enormous swaths of literature, of course, but we’ll assume you’re willing to write off thousands of years of writing in an effort to be reasonably well-read. […]
You can hit the highlights, and you can specialize enough to become knowledgeable in some things, but most of what’s out there, you’ll have to ignore. […] We could do the same calculus with film or music or, increasingly, television – you simply have no chance of seeing even most of what exists. Statistically speaking, you will die having missed almost everything.”
And this is maybe not a bad thing:
“It’s sad, but it’s also … great, really. Imagine if you’d seen everything good, or if you knew about everything good. Imagine if you really got to all the recordings and books and movies you’re ‘supposed to see.’ Imagine you got through everybody’s list, until everything you hadn’t read didn’t really need reading. That would imply that all the cultural value the world has managed to produce since a glob of primordial ooze first picked up a violin is so tiny and insignificant that a single human being can gobble all of it in one lifetime. That would make us failures.”
“The fact that anyone can be labeled a slut, at any time, with any level of sexual activity under their belt, and the fact that sluttiness is a moving target, makes it clear that slut-shaming isn’t just about controlling how much sex women have. If you can be called a slut without so much as kissing another person, then it stands to reason that your slut status must be based on something besides your level of sexual experience or activity. And often, it is. It’s based on what people assume about you just by looking at you - at your body, your clothes and the way you move through the world. Once you realize that, it becomes obvious that the slut label isn’t just about controlling how much sex women have: It’s about controlling how we dress, how we walk, how we talk, how we dance, how much we drink, who we talk to, how we feel about our own desires and so on and so on. And crossing the invisible, culturally-determined “slut line” in any of these arenas is enough to earn you a label that, no matter how much we denounce and detest it, no matter how well we understand its purpose and its perniciousness, somehow manages to seep into our brains and eat away at our certainty and self-assurance.”—“‘slut panel’ postmortem: shame, shame, go away”
“It is perhaps a symptom of print’s decline that the current conversation about the book’s demise has forgotten all these other ones. Instead we shuttle between two equally hollow poles: goofball digital boosterism a la Negroponte on one side and on the other a helpless, anguished nostalgia for the good old days of papercuts. Call it bibilionecrophilia: the retreat of the print-faithful into a sort of autistic fetishization of the book-as-object — as if Jeff Bezos could be convinced to lay e-profits aside by recalling for a moment the soft, woody aroma of a yellow-paged Grove Press paperback; as if there were nothing more to books than paper, ink, and glue.”—Ben Ehrenreich, in “The Death of the Book,” in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
“Look, we got erotic novels, first crack out of the box, once we had printing presses. It took a century and a half for the Royal Society to start publishing the first scientific journal in English. So even with the sacred printing press, the first things you get serve the basest human urges. But the presence of the erotic novels did not prevent us from pressing the printing presses into the service of the scientific revolution. And so I think every bit of time spent fretting about the fact that people have base desires which they will use this medium to satisfy is a waste of time – because that’s been true of every medium ever launched.”—Clay Shirky on why paywalls will underperform. (via viafrank)