Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathMapping and Texticon: navigation pathArchive/Map
The Archive, the Media, the Map and the Text
Rudolf Frieling


The archive and the availability of knowledge

Etymology is deceptive in this case: data are never ‹given›: they are produced and manipulated. Archiving, like the technologies it operates with, is now confronted with processes of fictionalization [1] and transience. It faces structural problems that undermine any overall concept and erode it from the inside. Data, like media, are dying by the year, by the month, by the day; we can already trace a long history of «Dead Media». [2] On the one hand, the much-mentioned transience of the electronic media is technically based, as the pressure to innovate does not admit criteria like longevity, but transience is also built into the archive's own structure as soon as it exceeds a critical volume threshold. Data loss has always been a process inherent in the archive. Experience of handling archives and databases shows that any system comes up against the gaps and breaks imposed by practice. Even archivists, those guarantors of reliable document administration, can get tangled up in the snares of storing, sorting, discarding and not finding again. But the electronic media promise an availability potential that played a crucial part even in the early days of scientific imagination, as shown in


Vannevar Bush's groundbreaking essay «As We May Think». [3] Here comprehensive knowledge on call is finally combined with the vision of a machine, but without reflecting the history of knowledge production, with all its social and historical conditions. [4]

Configuring knowledge

But this desire to have everything that is worth knowing (or just ‹everything›) on call is not something that was dreamed up with the Internet and then realized in a special way, it is rooted in the enlightenment-driven motivation of the Encyclopaedists, continues in the processes of historicizing knowledge, and combines in the 19th century with the end of the book's role as the preferred place for storing produced knowledge: «The gradual substitution of card indexes for fixed book-oriented memory locations is linked with the process known as the historicization of knowledge. The reference systems of knowledge, the ordering systems of knowledge itself, are seen as historical entities, and the temporary nature and permanent revision of all

icon: next page