The Perfect Archive

In Derrida’s Archive Fever, he discusses what exactly an archive is and where the word originally came from. The Greeks used the work arkhe and he goes on to discuss the word’s “two principles” according to “nature or history… but also the principle according to the law” (9). This calls into question whether we can ever truly have the perfect archive because the archive itself is conflicted between what has naturally happening and what is being commanded by law to “happen.” Taking into consideration that law and those in charge play a role in what gets archived and how lets us as an audience to these archives see that what we are presented with may not be the true and natural record of what happened. Controlling what is being archived allows for whoever is in charge to shape the reality of the past that they are preserving for the future. In the ancient Greek times, this may have been what the leaders of the country wanted to be remembered, leaving out any sordid details and damage that their rule left for the country.

This practice continues today, on large and individual scales. Derrida discusses how technology progresses and continuously shapes how we archive and the impacts that both have on our world. He talked about the importance of emails, but now we have so much more to record things. We are able to see when a text message was sent and even read, when we posted the picture of our dog on Instagram (my last dog picture was just yesterday), and when a current president tweeted two years ago about whether or not we as citizens could “impeach a president for gross incompetence.” With all of these advances in technology, we are seemingly able to have the most accurate records and most accurate archives to date, but do we? In the age of social media, we have learned to construct our realities for others. We tweet about the funniest things that happened to us today, or tweak our stories so we can get more likes or retweets. We don’t tweet about how the small mundane things that help shape our lives because no one wants to hear about that! We use Instagram to show our followers the highlights of our lives. These highlights and bent truths present a distorted and ultimately untrue archive of who we are. Social media has made us individual masters of our own archives and what we choose to present and ultimately forget because archives allow us to rely less on our memory and more on the physical or digital proof that means more.

This brings me to my final point. If we as preteens, teenagers, millennials, and all kinds of individuals, the “little guys,” can perfect these illusions within our archives, what are the “big guys” creating? Have we questioned our governments, leaders, or even our idols? Do we have in our presence the most perfect archives? And if the answer is yes, then how much of these perfect archives are true and are true archives perfect, or imperfect?


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