Final Essay.


Thom Mitchell, z3463530, H14A


“Civilisation has been dominated at different stages by various media of communication such as clay, papyrus, parchment, and paper produced first from rags and then from wood. Each medium has its significance for the type of monopoly of knowledge which will be built and which will destroy the conditions suited to creative thought and be displaced by a new medium with its peculiar type of monopoly of knowledge.” 

(Innis, Harold, The Press: A neglected factor in the economic history of the twentieth century. London: Oxford University Press1949, p. 5). 

What differences do different archives make? What is the relationship between particular archives and the ways of living they allow/make possible? What kinds of authority do particular archives assist or challenge?


We live in a society powered by micro-electronics, and most every aspect of our lives is lived, to some extent, in the digital realm. This has, as Castells argues, fundamentally changed the way power circulates in society. This change in the essential nature of society has been described by Castells as the “networked society”, but is more commonly identified by the now common notion of the ‘information age’. In the digital age, more information is available about more aspects of more peoples lives than ever before – but what are the implications of this? Who can access this vastly expanded reservoir of knowledge, and with whose permission? By applying Derrida’s theory of “archive fever” to practical contemporary examples from the “networked society” it becomes clear that ordinary citizens have, in many ways, less power than ever before. The digital age is often heralded as a great empowerer of the citizenry, but the reality is that ordinary people have not acquired the technical skills needed to manipulate software or hardware which inform the controls and access to the swelling body of archives. That is to say, in an age of digital archives, the powerful institutions which keep and conceal society’s most important archives have been quietly monopolising knowledge and reshaping what is public or private. “Archivization produces as much as it records the event” (Derrida, 1995, p.17), and we should be thinking more carefully about what sort of society we’re creating.

An understanding of how the prolific digital archivization of our age affects what kind of society we’re creating must be founded in the acknowledgement that society has already been fundamentally changed. Society is already rooted in the digital at a cultural level. We live in what Manuel Castells has described as a “network society”, which is less hierarchical and more fluid than those of the past. The “network society” is a society whose social structure is made of networks powered by microelectronics-based information and communication technologies” (2005, p.3). For Castells the “arrangements of humans in relations of production, consumption, reproduction, experience, and power” are configured within a “network” made up of constituent “nodes” (Castells, 2005, p.3). The ‘nodes’ are the components of the network which connect and exchange with other nodes within the network to achieve the network’s goals.

It is interesting to consider the ‘security state’ as a network. Whether various networks (like, say, security agencies and corporations) “cooperate or compete with each other” depends on on what their “programmed” “goals and rules of performance”  (Castells, 2005, p.3-4). In addition to shared goals, the ability for networks to cooperate “depends on the existence of codes of translation and inter-operability between the networks (protocols of communication), and on access to connection points” (Castells, 2005, p.3). And it’s here the NSA’s, and similar agency’s, vast stock of secret archives come in. These archives are controlled; access codes, classifications and the locations at which computers (as access points) are kept, all combine to the singular effort to keep the information within parameters set by the security-state network.

But recently, Edward Snowden, who might be considered a ‘node’ within the network, stopped contributing to the goals of the security state network. Over recent years Snowden and associated media outlets have been gradually leaking from the 1.7 million classified National Security Agency (NSA) files the ex-contractor stole, inserting them into networks with which the security state is in conflict. This 1.7 million documents, while only a small portion of the total secret archives of the U.S. security state, gives some indication of the scale of information which the state archives. The scope of the NSA’s snooping was also exposed. Many of the documents related to the notionally private lives of innocent civilians. Derrida’s theory of archives is aptly named to describe the fever with which the NSA had gone about archiving as much information as possible. All of this information had the capacity to contribute to the NSA’s (ostensible) goal of protecting North America’s interests. However, this ‘archive fever’ places the two networks, the security state and the ‘public’, in competition. It places the NSA’s goals of security in conflict with the public’s goal of privacy. Many of the files have been described as useless by intelligence analysts but they were retained nonetheless, according to reports in The Washington Post. The files “tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded. The NSA collected “medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque. Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam” (Friedersdorf, 2014).

Castell’s argues that “networks work on a binary logic: exclusion/exclusion”. The public took umbrage at their exclusion from the archives Snowden released, indicating that the goals of the security state were fundamentally at odds with the public’s goals in many cases. The sheer number of archives, let alone the nature of the archives, was shocking. But networks are characterised by “unity of purpose and flexibility of its execution by the capacity to adapt to the operating environment”: The NSA’s structures of communication had adapted to the digital environment almost completely. It just so happened that this occurred without the knowledge of the citizenry or indeed most of the polity.

How did it happen? How did it sneak up like that? The answer, in large part, lies with the nature of archives as Derrida has explained them.

The archive “names at once the commencement and the commandment” – the physical and historical thing that is the archive, and the social conditions under which that thing comes into existence and exists under (Derrida, 1995, p.9). The controls around who can access the archive, how the archive is conceptualised and what version or representation it records are subject to the goals of the entity – the network – that creates it. Government agencies, and perhaps none more so than national security agencies, are afforded a great deal of authority within the political system that apportions the dividends of power. “National security” is routinely invoked as a reason for secrecy: the agencies, we’re told, need that information contained in such archives to perform their function. Consequently what information the agencies have, and how they come to have it, remains largely secret too.

Derrida recalls the etymology of the term archive. One past iteration is Arkheion: “initially a house, a domicile, an address, the residence of the superior magistrates, the archons, those who commanded”. And so, the archive is not a neutral thing. It carries political power. In other words, it is influenced in the process of its creation by the unified goals of the network or entity which produces it. “The archive, as printing, writing, prosthesis, or hypomnesic technique in general is not only the place for stocking and for conserving an archivable content of the past, which would exist in any case, such as, without the archive,” Derrida says. Over and above the fact and initiation of its existence, “the technical structure of the archiving archive determines the structure of the archivable content, even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future” (1995, p.17). According to Derrida the commencement of the archive marks a sort of “institutional passage from private to public”, but this “does not always always mean from the secret to the non-secret”(1995, p.10). In the case of the security state network, secrecy is a core goal, and rarely does the institutional passage of the archive’s creation overrun this key characteristic.

So, in a “network society”, within which the dominant archive is the digital, what are the implications for the citizenry’s right to privacy? As noted earlier, the average person, even the so-called ‘digital native’ has not kept pace with the “technical structure of the archivable content”. Software design has tended to the simplification of the digital, for ease of use. The dominance of iconography, easy-to-use touch-screen interfaces and other simplifications of the actual coding and technology which underpins the digital has limited the ordinary folk’s ability to challenge or deviate from their levels of access to various archives. To provide an example – large companies such as Google and Facebook, built on societies growing digitisation, actually provided much of the content for the NSA’s (and associated security agencies) archives which Snowden partly revealed. Their business model is founded on the collection of personal data to on-sell to marketers, and the ordinary citizen hardly has the technological skills to avoid these sorts of activities which take place largely behind the pretty user interfaces we’ve grown accustomed to.

A new term is emerging for this institutional (and archival) privilege which, like our more secretive arms of government, we have vested in multinational digital corporations – “stacks”. “Stacks” are companies that increasingly control the internet – and by extension, our lives – through leveraging their huge multinational customer base, who are increasingly reliant on their services. “Stacks” are beginning to act like states, minus the terrestrial bonds and, often, the accountability of the nation-state.“Stacks” are increasingly able and willing to collect new types of data about citizens to sell to marketers or use in their own marketing. Springett (2014) explores how Google is integrating new technologies into their business mix to this end. The company recently bought Nest, “a deep strata sensing device you can put in your home which will passively sense and gather data about you” (Springett, 2014). The technology could soon be “profiling you by what kind of couch you can afford to serve you targeted ads,” according to Springett (2014). Another recent example of this phenomenon is Facebook’s infamous social experiment:  The company manipulated which of their friends’ statuses an unknowing group of users saw and how this affected their emotional state. This is a pretty clear indicator of how “Stacks” feel entitled to tinker with people’s private lives, and raises the question of how private our increasingly online lives are. Encapsulating this blurring of boundaries is the semantics of the digital ‘cloud’. Springett (2014) suggests that ‘the cloud’ is bifurcating into multiple occurrences of ‘a cloud’, a semantic delineation which signifies the digital space of the cloud is becoming a territorial and controllable space.

All of the information being gathered about us in digital spaces is being archived, of course. It is being archived by institutional networks such as the NSA and Google, and the process is largely occurring in the dark. This is partly because of operational and commercial sensitivity and/or confidence, but also because the highly technical processes that are involved in the gathering and storage of citizens’ private information are beyond the expertise of ordinary people. But if “archivization produces as much as records the event”, and the powerful institutions quietly collecting so much of our, often personal, information are to be considered as “networks” with unified goals, it is imperative that we ask ourselves what sort of society is being produced? The Australian Government is even now pushing for powers similar to (and in some ways, greater than) those the NSA used to archive such personal information in secret. Through the ages societies have been dominated by different medias of communication, from orality to print and eventually to the digital “network society”. Each medium has allowed various groups and institutions to assemble a monopoly on knowledge of different character and extent. The warning signs are there. It’s time we asked ourselves what kind of monopoly on knowledge is currently being produced – after all the now standard moniker of the ‘information age’ harks back to the old saying: knowledge is power.

Source list:

Castells, M 2005, ‘Informationalism, networks, and the network society: a theoretical blueprint’ in Elgar E (ed) The network society: a cross-cultural perspective,  Cheltenham, UK, pp.3-45.

Derrida, J 1995, ‘Archive Fever—A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, 25(2), pp9-63 accessed 27 August 2014:                                                                                                       <  >.

Friedersdorf, C 2014, ‘The Latest Snowden Leak Is Devastating to NSA Defenders, The Atlantic, July 7, accessed 12 November 2014:                                               <>.

Pincus, W 2013, ‘Snowden still holding keys to the kingdom’, The Washington Post, 8 December, accessed 12 November 2014:                                                              <>.

Springett, J 2014, ’Colonising the Clouds—Infrastructure Territory and The Geopolitics of The Stacks’,, July 8, accessed 23 October 2014:       <>


State-stack: How the TPP could aid Google, Facebook, and others, to monopolise the web.

[Week 12 blog post].

The recently leaked provisions of the (draft) Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could go a long way to cementing the developing self-imagined state-us of “stacks”.

“At Webstock 2013 Bruce Sterling defined what he calls ‘The Stacks’ – a new type of corporation”. (Springett, 2014).

He meant corporations like Facebook, like Google.

“Stacks” are big in terms of staff and users, use vertically integrated global software, are wireless, use advertising as a revenue model and rely on social networks, the cloud and increasingly, the internet of things to develop their advertising models (Springett, 2014).

They increasingly control the internet, and by extension, our lives.

Springett (2014) provides some proofs of how “stacks” are increasingly acting as a sort of ‘state unto themselves’.

The massive, globalised, membership, the increasing reliance of ordinary people on the services of “stacks” like Google and Facebook, along with the “stacks’” increasing monopolisation of the internet have allowed this state-stack mentality to develop.

Google recently bought Nest, “a deep strata sensing device you can put in your home which will passively sense and gather data about you” (Springett, 2014).

“If they’re not profiling you by what kind of couch you can afford to serve you targeted ads… I’m pretty sure they will be soon,” Springett (2014) opines.

The point is that “stacks” are increasingly able, and willing, to collect new types of data about us and use that to make money.

Facebook’s infamous social experiment, where they manipulated what an (unknowing) group of users saw and how this affected their emotional state is another example of how “stacks” are venturing into new territories of our increasingly digital lives (and privacy).

This phenomenon weakens the traditional separation of private and public, state and citizen.

Springett (2014) also discusses how ‘the cloud’ is becoming ‘a cloud’ to provide an example of how the digital space is increasingly notionally territorial, and controllable.

But who controls the internet?

The infrastructure and responsibilities of “stacks” are spread across multitudinous physical spaces and legal jurisdictions – what the rules of the game are is not clear, but like it or not, if we’re online, we’re playing, and they own the field.

This is all very worrying, but Springett’s article got me thinking about a further problem:

What will the rules be under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated, in secret, by the Australian, U.S., Japanese, and other governments, and how will that affect the “stacks’” ability to become the state?

Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of security states’ spying show how any illusions that states can be relied on to govern emergent digital spaces in line with community wishes are, well, illusions. So we should all be breaking a light sweat about what negotiations are going on between governments about our online rights and protections, as well as what input “stacks” are having in the negotiations.

In many cases, the provisions of the TPP would have the capacity to overrule domestic law.

Last week, Wikileaks disclosed some details of the chapter of the TPP which deals with the internet.

According to Chan (2014), the leaks revealed that:

“The US and Japan, the largest holders of intellectual property, have been keen to pursue stronger laws for breaches of copyright, including criminal penalties for non-commercial copyright infringements. That could cover internet downloads of television shows or music, where people do not make any money out of the product.”

Although the negotiations of the TPP have largely been kept secret, there is strong potential for internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook – actually anyone with a website – to become copyright cops.

The state and the stack-state would need to cooperate in the enforcement of the TPP provisions relating to copyright and given that the “stacks” have well-heeled legal teams and control of the information that’d be required by law enforcement agencies, they’d likely be able to wring out some (more) neat concessions.

The parallel developments occurring within “stacks” and the TPP make for a worrying, associated, combination.

“Stacks” increasingly see themselves as quasi-states, entitled to collect increasingly invasive and massive amounts of data, and the rumoured imposition of criminal charges for non-commercial copyright infringement under the TPP suggests the two are likely to co-contribute to the murkiness of what citizens’ rights and protections are in the digital world.

This sucks, because we’re already losing out.

Source list:

Chan Gabrielle, Safi Micheal (2014) ‘WikiLeaks’ free trade documents reveal ‘drastic’ Australian concessions’, The Guardian, 17 October, accessed 23 October 2014 <>

Springett, Jay (2014) ’Colonising the Clouds—Infrastructure Territory and The Geopolitics of The Stacks’,, July 8, <>

Did the “vectoralist class” shoot themselves in the foot with YouTube, Twitter and WordPress?

[Week eleven blog post].

The arguments of Wark (2004) and Gregg (2011) point to a crossroads for global equality, suggesting the way in which technology may undermine the capitalist strata.

According to Wark,  “What makes life differ in one age after the next is the application of new modes of abstraction (my italics) to the task of wresting freedom form necessity” (par. 009).

But what does it mean ‘to abstract’?

“To abstract,” Wark says, “is to construct a plane upon which otherwise different and unrelated matters may be brought into many possible relations” (par. 008).

There is a “hacker class”, according to Wark that is in the habit of abstracting.Simply put, the “hacker class” is a class that “create new worlds” by bringing “new things” into the existing one. A ‘hacker’ is not (necessarily) a computer geek – they could be anything from a poet, to a mathematician, musician or coder – so long as they bring new ideas into the world on the “plane” of abstraction, where concepts, ideas and materials ferment to produce new innovations (pars 002-004).

The abstractions of the ‘hacker class’ are, as with all things under a capitalist system, “mortgaged to others” (Wark, 2004, par. 004) but technology may change that.

Technological developments have accelerated the rate of abstraction to the point where the world is free of “necessity” (Wark, 2004, par 11). Yet “again and again, a ruling class arises that controls the surplus over bare necessity and enforces new necessities on those peoples who produce this very means of escaping necessity [abstraction]” (Wark, 2004, par. 10).

This is the exponentially growing model of capitalism that yokes the masses under the ruling class, and empowers them to determine the terms of the “mortgage”.

Wark identifies the emergent “vectoralist” class as an emerging ruling class. It “owns the means of realising the value of abstractions” (2004, par 21). That is, despite the now common recognition of intellectual property – which itself is rooted in an abstract concept – as a form of ‘property’, the developing “vectoralist” class “wages an intensive struggle to dispossess hackers of their intellectual property” through patents and copyright acquisition. The ability to “produce” things and outcomes from ideas is still connected to the abstractor’s material needs.

In a digital age, though, technological developments have nearly tipped the equilibrium in favour of abstraction not for the necessities of survival but some strata not tied to “regressive class interests” (Wark, 2004, par. 11). In the developed world, Gregg (2011) argues that these technologies have actually led to mid-rank employees being expected to do the work of learning new technologies in their own time.

This has basically pushed up the workload of the average employee, who has been expected to utilise technologies to advance business’ interests, without recognition that workloads have gone up as a result, forcing employees to spend large amounts of time learning new skills (Gregg, 2011).

Gregg suggests that it is a certain type of worker who’s left behind by the need to adapt to new technologies – the older and those who take a break for things like maternity leave are cited as likely victims (2011, p. 111-112).

What happens when those with the most urgent need to ‘hack’ a new ‘world’ – those in the ‘third’ world, that is – are offered an even slightly comparable access to technology (through work or otherwise)?

Walk argues that “abstraction is always an abstraction of nature” and through processes of production humanity “comes to take the environment it produces to be natural” (2004, par. 016).

The exponentially increasing number of actors engaging with new opportunities for abstraction in the information age, coupled with the actual necessity to ‘hack’ a new world, could assault the ruling class with attempts to use intellectual property for a common good, overwhelming their ability to control the uses of new ideas and technologies.

The sheer size of the third world population – and the fact that many of them are young, a factor cited by Gregg as important to adeptness with technology – may snub out the emerging vectoralist class.

The ‘information age’ is also a communication age, and the new ubiquity of publishing opportunities – via platforms like wordpress, youtube, and twitter – could foster a communication culture that popularises the notion that by abstracting collectively the ability of the vectoralist class to render subservient those coming up with the ideas that the dominant classes turn into capital could be undermined.

The prerequisite analytical understanding of capitalist systems needed to overthrow them, may emerge from the vectoralists’ early efforts at monetising the abstractions of the ‘hacker’ class.

YouTube, WordPress, Twitter and other platforms have the potential to enable the masses to access education, and ideas. In short, the early efforts of the vectoralists give them the most massive underclass – the third world – the tools to join Wark’s “hacker class”.

Source list:

Gregg, Melissa (2011) ‘Know your product: Online Branding and the Evacuation of Friendship’ in Work’s Intimacy Cambridge: Polity: 102-118.

Guantlett, David (2013) ’David Gauntlett on making at Maker Faire Rome, October 2013’, YouTube, 1 November, accessed 20 October 2014: <>.

Guillaud, Hubert (2010) ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, Truthout, January 6, accessed 20 October 2014: <>.

Wark, McKenzie (2004) ‘Abstraction’ in A Hacker Manifesto Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press: paragraphs 001-023.

Visualisation [blogpost, week 8].

[This is my visualisation. It responds to the week eight readings for ARTS2090.]

– This illusion’s got to find a way  –

Underpinning the struggle over privacy in the digital, online age, is an uneasiness about whether our online lives are 'real'.

Underpinning the struggle over privacy in the digital, online age, is an uneasiness about whether our online lives are ‘real’.

Source list:

All images under creatives commons licences.

Arnell, Timo (2006) ‘the dashed line in use’, <>

Derrida, Jacques (1995) ‘Archive Fever—A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, 25(2), pp9-63.

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

Habermas J, 1991, The Structural Transformation of the public sphere – an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society, MIT Press.

Plato (n.d.) on ‘art and illusion’ in ‘a snippet of a dialogue: Theodorus – Theaetetus – Socrates – an Eleatic stranger’ from Sophist, <;.

The (re-)negotiation of government perception of ‘the’ public. [Week 7 blog post]

[Week 7 blog post]

The (re-)negotiation of government perception of ‘the’ public.

There is a big debate among watchers of new media about how privacy is going to work as everyday life becomes increasingly digital, and lived on the web.

In this week’s ARTS2090 readings, Gillespie (2014) argues that the reaction to Facebook’s social experiment signalled “a deeper discomfort about an information environment where the content is ours but the selection is theirs.”

In the recent social experiment, Facebook opened the door for researchers to make “alterations in the News Feeds of 310,000 Facebook users, excluding a handful of status updates from friends that had either happy words or sad words, and measuring what those users subsequently posted for its emotional content” (Gillespie, 2014).

Gillespie (2014) says although the research evoked an “intense response on the part of press, academics, and Facebook users” this was just one specific instance which had been “latched” onto. This was symptomatic of a general move towards new modes, gradations and power structures of the digital age which defied the traditional neat split between public and private.

In 2012, the Snowdon leaks have shown the unprecedentedly massive scale of information and the new controls around access to that. Snowdon leaked more information than anyone before him ever had, revealing a huge state surveillance program which was often focused on innocent citizens. But the state’s overreach was brought down by one tech-savvy leaker. (None of which would have been possible in a pre-digital mass ‘public sphere’.)

In a more applied example of the emerging topography of citizens’ level of real – versus expected – privacy, Golumba (2013) explores one response triggered by Snowden’s leaks.“Among the digital elite, one of the more common reactions to the recent shocking disclosures about intelligence surveillance programs has been to suggest that the way to prevent government snooping is to encrypt all of our communications.”  This approach Golumba decries, portraying it as self-serving anarchism, and pointing out that citizens using their technological nous to live outside the controls of parliamentary democracy, the constitution, (etc), is largely analogous to being a crimm in the ‘real world’.

Gillespie and Golumba both call for a more widespread debate. I agree, but also think it’s important to not that any practical policy or legal outcomes that may emerge from such a debate, will come from government. Given actual changes in a citizens real rights to privacy will be negotiated through the usual system of social power – the parliament – it is maybe more prescient to think about how corporations and government’s are thinking about us. That is, to acknowledge the government thinks about ‘us’ (citizens) as being constituted by various publics.

“Some have argued that Facebook and other social media are now a kind of quasi public spheres” Gillespie (2013) tells us. In the same way, governments operate by segmenting components of the voting public (the wealthy, the “battlers”, business) and spinning their message and policies strategically.

Government agencies now fight crime and maintain law and order online – regrettably their surveillance and profiling seems to have, in many cases, extended to the covert and indiscriminate application on ordinary, un-suspected, and unsuspecting, citizens.

Gillespie and Golumba both argue for the need for a more widespread debate – but it seems to me that debate should be about how governments and their agencies perceive ‘us’, the public. This would necessitate a move away from Habermasian perspective of a mass, relatively homogenous, ‘public sphere’ (1991) towards a more realistic understanding of modern publics as fragmented, decentralised, and often online.

Away from the ‘mass (print) media’, towards the fragmented publics of the internet and an increasingly individualistic society.

Today I happened across a VICE news article in which Cherney (2014) details how the U.S. Justice Department created a fake Facebook profile and impersonated a woman who’d been convicted of involvement in a drug-ring run by her boyfriend. She is suing, and is especially angry that her children were included in the photos uploaded to the fake account by the Justice Department operative.

What does it say about the way governments view that woman that they would think it’s okay to impersonate her and her family and obviously put them in danger because it made it look like she was cooperating with police (drug lords don’t like snitches).

And would the government have used technology to invade her privacy that way if she’d been engaged in white-collar crime?

Privacy online is part of the soup of parliament, courts, the constitution and social norms that denotes what powers the citizenry, corporations and everyone has (or doesn’t have). The internet, as well as raising new questions about public/versus private lives, raises opportunities for government to segment and position in contest the voting public, which in turn raises opportunities for abuse of less powerful groups (*read, muslims, first peoples).

Until we think about how that works, we will be one step behind on the specific issues like privacy and surveillance.

Source list:

Cheney N, 2014, The DEA Is Using Facebook to Bust Drug Dealers — and Is Now Getting Sued for It, VICE News, October 10,

Accessed 9-10-2014 <>.

Gillespie T, 2014, Facebook’s algorithm — why our assumptions are wrong, and our concerns are right, Culturally Digital (BLOG), July 4,

Accessed 8-10-2014, <>.

Golumba D, 2013, Opt-Out Citizenship: End-to-End Encryption and Constitutional Governance, Uncomputing (BLOG), August 8,

Accessed 09-10-2014,<>.

Habermas J, 1991, The Structural Transformation of the public sphere – an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society, MIT Press,

Accessed 9-10-2014, <>.

Visualisation project.

[Visualisation: Thom, Katie, Annalise and Lisa’s visualisation project.]

In our visualisation project we sought to make data about the ecological impact of the Maules Creek Mine in north-western NSW accessible to a wider audience.

The data has been gathered from a wide range of technical and lengthy documents, that an ordinary person would not have the time or inclination to trawl through.

Obviously we have politicised the data by choosing and arranging it with the intention of convincing the audience that the mine’s ecological impact on the unique Leard State Forest (where the mine is being constructed) will have disastrous consequences for the environment.

However, the facts are incredibly powerful – for example there is only 0.1 per cent of the type of habitat found at the Leard State Forest remaining in Australia. This is why they work well in a visualisation.

Through the use of visual techniques such as contrast, colour, juxtaposition and a generally pleasing aesthetic the data can not only be conveyed in a way that is easily digestible for the audience, but also couched within other techniques designed to influence their interpretation of what that data actually means.

Essentially we have made visible data that is obscured by complex and lengthy documents, spread across a large range of sources, and arranging them in a way that enables the reader to grasp the ecological disaster that the mine will cause.

Source list

I hate to think what I’ve archived as a 16 year old on Facebook…

Derrida’s Archive Fever theory raises an interesting question: how will the human attachment and reliance on temporality and sequentiallity and the current potential for continuous and highly detailed archiving of our lives affect each other?

On the one hand Archive Fever Theory disregards temporality in preference of ‘The Now’. Archives such as the My School, and more broadly social media also, seek to capture, immortalise and crystallise ‘The Now’. However, as Derrida observes “The technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content. Archivization produces as much as it records the event [my bold]” (1995, p. 16). There is a clear underlying purpose and agency – an intentionality – with which the actant of the Apartied Archive (which is in one way human, in another a non-human artefact/actant) processes and presents information about racism; it is underpinned by a desire to exterminate it. Similarly, when we post to Facebook at a given moment in time, we are projecting a certain representation of ourselves. We are publishing a version or part of ourselves.

On the other Hand, and happily for Ogle, society is moving towards a system where that crystallised ‘now’ can be accessed easily at any time. “The problem,” he says, “is ultimately one of attitude. The current philosophy underlying most of the real-time web is that if it’s not recent, it’s not important. This is the problem.” (Ogle, 2010).

I think this could be the problem, but for different reasons. The process of archivisation is also one of forgetting and concealing (Derrida, p.9). If the archival potential of the “real-time web” were fully realised, it would mean any person of my generation could have any and all of their previous representations revisited.

To take things to an Orwellian conclusion this could facilitate the foundation of a surveillance state. The powers that define the boundaries and limitations of archives – if a hegemonic order persists, as it always has in some form – would be able to abuse this highly pervasive and often highly personal archiving system. The potential for institutionalising inequitable power structures could also operate on a very personal level.

If pervasive archiving of a person’s life occurs as Ogle would have it, it could be used as a formidable weapon in The Now. We view each other, and history, and everything (from our deep yearning to know the ‘start’ of the human story’ and how we came to be) on a temporal and sequential scale. Humans always see what you did in the past is always as a precondition and informant to who/what you are now.

Say for instance, some embarrassing footage of me at a party, or a sex tape, which exists in some deep web archive of my life, was discovered, a few such entries into the archive would be enough for opponents to undermine my suitability to seek public office, or run a company, or myriad other things.

Our minds, our very societies, build up pictures of The Now, according to what salient events are presented to us – in very personal publics and much broader, more mediated publics. These salient events are, as the Apartied Archive points out, not necessarily representative, they are merely the dominant narratological tool.

Judgement through this lens of accumulation and salient events is essential to human thinking. Given the influence of Freud in archive fever theory, I think it’s worth considering how the availability of so much of the past might be used to reinforce all sorts of hegemonic orders of ‘The Now’ by those with the greatest power to access and conceal archives.



Derrida, Jacques (1995) ‘Archive Fever—A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, 25(2), pp9-63 accessed 27 August 2014 <  >.

 Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, accessed 27 August 2014 <>.

‘My School’ website, <>, accessed 27 August 2014.

Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’,, December 16, accessed 27 August 2014, <>.

‘The Apartheid Archive’, <>, accessed 27 August 2014.