Category Archives: Week 5 Tutorial 4

Who’s Got Archive Fever?

How does the “archive” influence or decide the type of “archival” content? What is this archive instituting? Destroying? What new “inside” and “outside” does it constitute?

For those unfamiliar with the popular TV sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’, let me introduce you to Dr Sheldon Cooper. With an IQ of 187, the Theoretical Physicist has, in his own words, “remembered everything since the day my mother stopped breastfeeding me”.  In fact, he says it was a “drizzly Tuesday”. This super-genius’s brain  is a magnificent archive. More so, he’s a human archive. But unlike Sheldon, it’s extremely difficult to remember every single thing that has ever happened, or keep a mental note of every thought or utterance without recording it somewhere else. This is why man created and continues to develop ‘Archives’.  

An ‘archive’ is any way in which we can store data and information so it can be accessed later. Archives can be physical, such as libraries, books, a collection of letters, etc, OR they can also be digital, such as YouTube, websites, an email inbox, etc. Jacques Derrida, author of ‘Archive Fever’, suggests that archives lay the basis for authority, because archives decide what is “inside” or “outside” of culture. This pretty much means that those who create archives and input data have control over what is recorded, preserved, destroyed, and what can or can’t be accessed. As such, you could consider what the data was like before it was put in the archive, and how it may affect how you engage with it.

Derrida argues that :

“The technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content…archivization produces as much as it records the event”. – (Derrida 1997, Stokes 2003, Enszer 2008)

Uh Oh, I can feel a case of “Archive Fever” coming along! “Archive Fever” encompasses how different modes of publishing constitutes our mode of living, structures information for perservation, distribution and access, and what  consequences may arise. With the advent of digital publishing you have video, email inbox, social media & blog archives, as well as websites acting as archives such as Hansard (recording the minutes of every parliamentary question time). What arises is the new-media philosophy that “if it’s not recent, it’s not important”. (Ogle 2009)

 Facebook lets you “download” a version of basically everything you’ve ever done using the site, and even has a “Photo Memories” tool. This way you have an archive of your thoughts posted, photos, and can experience an archive of emotions. The archives of this blog site, aided by “tagging” and “categories” not only stores the posts, but categorises them for future reference, and this is open to anyone. The way information is published in an archive creates the basis for how that data can be accessed in the future. Also, the correlation between archives and publishing can largely affect the possibilites of what can be done. If Freud communicated via email or text, then psychoanalysis would have been completely different back then.

 But, there are some negatives in the way digital publishing is enhancing archiving. If you record something in a diary, and keep it, it’s easy to find, because you’ve got the date on the page. But with Twitter, it’s extremely difficult to find what you’ve tweeted last month, let alone last week. The technology simply can do it easily, because of the attitude to what’s recent being the most important. For an interesting read on “archive fever” and this issue of retrieval systems, please visit . The current MySchool website has changed the way parents choose prospective schools for their children. Is it “destroying” the whole concept of schooling and what schools to choose? 

As such, the data in archives allow for a form of content & expression in the type of data and how it is archived. As such, the issue in the transition from print to digital publishing is how new ways of archiving determines what is archivable.


  1.  Ogle, M 2009, ‘Archive Fever – A Love Letter To The Post Real-Time Web’’, accessed 25March 2011
  2. Enszer, J.R. 2008, ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida , , last accessed 26 March 2011
  3. Stokes, J 2003,   Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, , accessed 25 March 2011
  4. School Of English, Media & Performing Arts 2011,  ‘ARTS2090 Publics & Publishing In Transition  – 2011 Course Outline’ , accessed from,   pp.33-35
  5. The featured Image is taken from the tumblr blog ‘Sheldon Cooper For The Win’ ,

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