Derrida & Cox

Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever explores who the actual authority of archives are. As newer technology is developed, previous uses and ways of using archives changes. Richard J. Cox’s Citizen Archivist re-explores archive authority and uses in current situations (digitization, the Internet, etc.).

Derrida begins to examine how digitization will affect archiving in “Exergue” with the example of email. He discusses how printing of documents is archiving because it is typographic. There is an argument, however, about who the actual authority of such an archived piece is. Derrida argues that there are two qualities of authority: “commencement” and “commandment”. (@JWS72 also discusses this in the blog post “Derrida, Cox, and the Digital Archive”.) Cox, on the other hand, states that digitization has made authority of archives more individualistic, hence combining the two qualities. Rather being a job for professional archivists, archiving has become an activity for private citizens due to the increase in use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) and quicker passing of information (digital documents, email, etc.).

On that note, Derrida’s prediction about the transition from “secret to non-secret” is found in Cox’s article. Cox especially touches on this in section 5 (“The Changing World of Personal Recordkeeping”), when the “new challenges involving personal recordkeeping” is mentioned. Rather than personal information staying with the person, issues such as identity theft and digital copying of documents makes what is considered a secret and what is not considered a secret from the public cloudy.

Derrida’s argument about a literal “archive fever” is very current, as reflected in Cox’s article. The emergence of digital recording and simplified collection of information has created an interest and increase in archiving. More and more people are willing to put out information about themselves and their families to be looked back on later. Whether or not this is a good thing is still up for debate.

Question: Is the use of digital technology ruining the allure of historic archiving? Are physical books, images, and audio/film more believable when in digital form?

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