Archive Futures: Operations, Time Objects, Collectives

Call for applications : The Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies – a collaboration between the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (Internationales Kolleg fürKulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, IKKM) and Princeton University (German Department) – returns to Weimar in 2015 for its fifth installment. The topic will be “Archive Futures: Operations, Time Objects, Collectives”.

We live in an age of feverish archival production: thanks to digitization never before has so much become so readily accessible to so many so easily and so fast. Extant archives are being re-conceptualized and reconfigured, card-catalogues are being replaced by search engines, and entire domains of daily life have become subject to a generalized quotidian archival impulse conducted by individuals (as in the auto-surveillant mimetic narcissism of self-archiving on Facebook or Twitter), corporations (as in the industry of ‘data-shadows’ produced through the aggregation of databases) and the state (as in the dystopic fantasy of the US ‘Total Information Awareness’ program). Interestingly, digitization often goes along with a mimesis of the traditional analog archive in terms of user interfaces or addressing procedures. And yet an astonishing percentage of already-digitized collections has already begun to disappear, victims of the often-fatal consequences of hard- and software platform anachronization. Archives today are threatened both if they fail to engage with the digital and – ironically – if they embrace it wholeheartedly without thinking through the material, institutional and economic consequences of digital longevity. “Future-proofing” a digital archive requires extensive financial and technical resources in ways entirely different from previous epistemes of library science.

The problem of digitization thus reveals that the archive is not – indeed has never been – defined merely as a collection or a storage room, but is rather a set of procedures, practices, or operations, of rules and protocols. These operations, internal and external as well as gatekeeping ones, such as selection, are not only core processes of the making of history, of memory building, of juridical power and political legitimation, and of collective identity production; at the same time, they create the operational frameworks for defining future(s) as possibilities to break with the past. The opening up of archives in post-1989 Central-Eastern Europe can, for instance, be read in just such a context.

(Read the rest of call and the guidelines for submitting an application. Also, check the previous installments of the Princeton-Weimar Summer School, as well as a shorter version of the call on their website)