Archiving as a Deceiving Craft

Archivers hold the power to determine others’ perceptions of memory, time, events, and facts. Everyone is an archivist – professors, students, parents, children – that decides the fate of the way those around him see inside his archive. In the same way that Derrida considers e-mail in “Archive Fever,” we can look at social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to exemplify the ways in which technology influences the way we archive, as well as to which degree archiving affects the way others see our lives.

Derrida explains that the capturing and documentation of events, in all forms, promotes honesty, because the evidence of what took place is directly seen or read in the archive. However, what if technology has created a less honest form of archiving? He writes that, “the archontic principle of the archive is also a principal of consignation, that is, of gathering together.” Social media platforms allow people to display a sort of highlight reel of their life – an archive of the most attractive moments – in order to provoke an interest in the rest of their lives. Posed photos and artistic editing helps to tailor an understanding for viewers that may not convey events exactly as they happened. In addition to this, every viewer’s perception of the experience will be different than the last one, and probably vastly different than the way the documenter actually experienced the event (some documentation may even alter the way the archivist himself remembers the event). So if our highlight reels represent this “gathering together,” they could, possibly, be the most prevalent example of how deceiving archives can be. Keasler’s “picture not taken” is an example of an opportunity to capture an event dishonestly. Had she photographed the abusive father that she met during his outrage, she would have documented an act. An attention-grabbing, yes, but fraudulent and exaggerated image of what life was like for his young girls. With her words, Keasler provided a more honest and thorough description of what her visit to this home was like than any photograph could have helped her communicate. So how will one ever accurately understand events on a larger scale of importance – perhaps the presidential election of 2016 – when we so carefully craft others’ perceptions of the way things are happening around them?

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1 thought on “Archiving as a Deceiving Craft”

  1. I really like your note about documenting things potentially being an opportunity to be deceiving. Your whole post reminded me of Essena O’Neill, the Instagram “star” that had thousands upon thousands of followers and ended up changing the descriptions of everything to all the effort that went into making each photo appear at least somewhat candid.

    It emphasizes that the archive can’t truly be trusted, but if no archive can be trusted, not even our own, should we even bother? Or should we just use these archives “responsibly?” What even defines responsibility in this context?

    Like

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