The Archive: A Neoliberal Project

Robert Gehl discusses the ways in which the online technologies with which we interface on a daily basis are in fact investing a great deal in insuring that our actions are being archived. The “new media compa­nies and entrepreneurs […] assume a curatorial role” (1229) and thus have the power to determine what types of interactions are meaningful and how they should be fostered. This is not unrelated to what David Zeitlyn writes in the most recent Annual Review of Anthropolgy article on the archive that:

For Derrida (1995), like Foucault, there is no escape from archival hegemony; it is a way of thinking about memory, of exploring Freud’s ideas of the fear of death, and of repression as a type of archiving, a reversible form of forgetting” (463)

NetworkingHowever, the hegemonic agenda at work here is a neoliberal one. The effective expansion of neoliberalism to transform daily activities into market transactions relies on the archiving power and structure of Web 2.0. This archiving relies on the “flattening” of behavior in such a way that delimits data that becomes infinitely re-organizable.

According to Paul Treanor,

The ultimate (unreachable) goal of neoliberalism is a universe where every action of every being is a market transaction, conducted in competition with every other being and influencing every other transaction, with transactions occurring in an infinitely short time, and repeated at an infinitely fast rate.”

If the information we archive aims to monetize our online interactions, and the emergent power structures in society allow them to be archived and organized in that way, then we must begin to question what our future “online” will look like. Perhaps we must also ask, what are we forgetting?

 Gehl, Robert W. “The Archive and the Processor: The Internal Logic of Web 2.0.” Sage Journals (2011): 1228-244.
Zeitlyn, David. “Anthropology in and of the Archives: Possible Futures and Contingent Pasts. Archives as Anthropological Surrogates*.” Annual Review of Anthropology(2012): n. pag. – Annual Review of Anthropology, 41(1):461. Web. 05 Dec. 2013

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