The New Media Archive

I knocked up a first draft of my Blogtalk paper today and one of the problems I won’t be able to address is to do with the archives of blogs and email lists. What is going to happen to these archives? The recent dissolution of the Spoon’s lists brought all these questions to the front of my mind. There is so much written in these archives… A future archivist with his sidekick publisher will go through these old posts like current publisher’s go through past lectures and interviews when the primary texts of an author have been exhausted and republished like the “Best of…” albums you buy at service stations.

Probably the person to start thinking about this stuff in any concrete way will be someone in the ilk of Friedrich Kittler. Kittler’s work has been obsessed with the technological conditions of discourse and the link between the military that always seems to produce the technology and the culture produced by the discursive regimes enabled by such technology. The same thing as happened with the emergence of internet and then the WWW. The internet was originally (still is?) part of the military-industrial complex. It was developed as a decentralised communication network so if there was ever a nuclear attack there would be something that survived to launch a counter attack. Now I am hopefully due to give a paper discussing something that has emerged as a socio-technical offshoot. Does it feel like I am talking about a technology of war? Not really. Does it feel like I am using a technology of war to write this? Hmm, nup. Does it feel like you are reading this text provided to your screen via a technology of war?

But what cultural forms have been made possible by this technological archive? Definitely the concept of ‘network’ would have little truck today if it had not been the need for a US nuclear counter attack. The concept of the network that theorists like Negri and Hardt deploy in Multitude would not be possible if it were not for the cool, calculating abstraction of the utter fear and hatred of the Cold War.

Anyway, I have been reading the old Spoon’s D&G list archives. Anyone who wants to get a grip on D&G there is sooo much stuff in there. Fuck… I can’t believe it sometimes! I found this quote in a post by Greg Seigworth (whole post is worth reading!) and I think it may relate to a post about writing by Christian on his blog. It is from Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion (p11):

“He started hearing to the side of what she was saying, and as if behind it, but in an expanse without depth, with no top or bottom, yet which was materially locatable, another utterance with which hers had almost nothing in common.”

I feel like I sometimes pursue this too much in my own work. Try to locate, disect it, follow it up, play with it and so on. It means I am not doing what I should be doing, which is my thesis. It makes me realise how bloody lucky I am to have the freedom of thought to pursue my thoughts to the point where I feel as if I think from from the side. I have an antidote to that now, though. No more free thoughts for Glen. They are all going to cost me, because, if I want to complete within little over a year, then I need to reign in my thinking and focus it. Over the weekend I drew up a final chapter outline and plan of attack for submission. I know what I have to write, how much I have left to write and pretty much how I am going to write it. So now it is time to get it done and time to get to work.

5 replies on “The New Media Archive”

  1. [cough]

    My lovely parents have just returned home to Perth after a visit. They visited some winery-type places while here. They left me a case of cleanskin shiraz to celebrate their visit. I think we should measure our alcohol consumption according to how much red wine we can drink (we are, after all, some version of humanities scholars who traditionally indulge in red wine). Or we can fuck off such Howardist fantasies (that is my new turn of phrase, using a version of ‘Howard’ as an insult) and sink beers. I shall rule the billard tables, let me warn you…

  2. Hi Glen … your post has me almost feeling nostalgic (about the Spoon’s list and about writ[h]ing my dissertation), though I hate nostalgia.

    Anyway as I remember, around the same time as this post that you quote, I was writing a review of Blanchot’s _Awaiting Oblivion_ but it never got published (at least so far as I know) because the journal’s review editor died and things got shuffled & lost at their end and it didn’t matter in the end anyway … but I can cut and paste the review here, I suppose. Nothing grand but a few moments that I still like a few years down the road.

    Awaiting Marc Auge’s Oblivion at the moment.

    ==============

    Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion (L’Attente l’oubli)
    Translated by John Gregg
    University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln and London (1962/1997)
    A review written by
    Dr. Gregory J. Seigworth, Millersville University (PA)

    “Unfamiliar waiting, equal in all its moments, as is space in all its points; similar to space, exerting the same continuous pressure, not exerting it.” – Maurice Blanchot, Awaiting Oblivion (1962/1997, p.14).

    Don’t be fooled by the physical dimensions of Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion–despite its relatively slim nature (85 pages), it is easily one of the longest books ever written. Toward the conclusion of Awaiting Oblivion, Blanchot describes the room where everything (and nothing) has transpired as “narrow and long, abnormally long perhaps, such that it extends far to the outside, in a strictly delimited space, although specified with fixed points of reference” (p.81). It is the spatiality of this room that one also finds elaborated in a similar fashion by Blanchot’s text itself. The sparse contents of the room are also the book’s fixed points of reference: a man and a woman–both of whom, on occasion, shift out of phase just enough to become their own (often barely recognizable) doubles–in a room with a few furnishings (a table, a bed, a chair, a sofa, etc), and two windows. As a room (that is, a story), it is, indeed, ‘narrow and abnormally long’ but if it has length, it is a length of a different sort: not exactly a linear line (although it carries along the faintest, slender string of a narrative) but an eternally coiling and surreptitious line that moves outward (not simply across from left to right) in a spherical extension: a line meandering out with such determined lassitude and suppleness that it can imperceptibly whiplash up from its own subjacent realm of continuous variation to meet itself, causing language to stutter in its act of enunciation.

    Thus, early in the book, perhaps Blanchot is tipping his hand about Awaiting Oblivion’s minimalist and airy yet claustrophobic architecture (then again, of course, ‘he’ need not be speaking of his own compositional technique at all here but Zeno’s paradox or both):

    The meaning of this whole story was that of a long sentence that could not be cut up into segments, that would discover its meaning only at the end and that, at the end, would find its meaning only as a breath of life, the motionless movement of the story in its entirety (p.11).

    Upon reaching the end of the ‘motionless movement’ of Awaiting Oblivion, one does not pause to dwell on its characters or its events (there has hardly been a nail to hang such details upon) but, instead, the reader is left pondering its dimensions in experience–not of the book-in-itself but of the creation of a porous membrane that runs along the ever-mobile inside-/outside-space of writing/reading: that is, between a speaking voice and a listening repose, or, as the book’s repeated refrain has it: “Act in such a way that I can speak to you.” This is the lingering after-effect of Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion.

    But, no doubt, my accent thus far upon the text’s spatiality has been slightly misplaced, because, if Blanchot’s text has a focus and a reflexive surface, it is not space but time (interminable time) that is truly the book’s foremost concern. This is a work that does not attempt to grasp hold of time as it passes: instead, Awaiting Oblivion is completely content to luxuriate in the unfolding of time as it disperses and settles under the intimacies of even most rapt attention. And, intriguingly then, it is precisely Blanchot’s treatment of temporality that affords the emergence of the book’s unique spatial characteristics.

    In some ways, it is tempting to believe that Blanchot wishes, most of all, to invert and empty out Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time: instead of the past and remembering, it is the future and forgetting. As is well-known, Proust was drawn to how the sensuousness of the present slips beneath cognition and recedes into the past and, then, strives for the means of its retrieval in some future occurrence. Writing of the workings of ‘involuntary memory,’ Proust says, “The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for the object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die” (1928/1956, p.54). While Blanchot appreciates the efforts involved in such an endeavor (see his essay “Proust,” pp.66-78, 1982), he is casting for something different, albeit occurring simultaneously (and just as ‘materially locatable’, p.11), in the sliver of a gap where future and past are ceaselessly joined, continually (un)hinged.

    In this intermittence of “the present instant” (p.34) is another world (yet still this world) whose expanse is far wider than that which could ever be revived in the sensual re-embodiment of what transpires (and might transpire again) between subject and object. This world subsists on a level of forgetting beneath (or beside or behind) that which might later, by chance, find its readmittance as an involuntary memory–it is the ‘forgetting of forgetting’ or “the personless remembrance that takes the place of forgetting for us” (p.38). No object to reconjure, no subject reciprocally constituted in its light–but a pure current of life (its meaning is its breath) that “escapes without anything being hidden” (p.42). Suspended in light where one is “no longer protected by the hidden aspect of things” (p.72) and, thus, there is no salvation or destiny to be discovered in the impossible recovery of the clandestine (present/future-past) relational aspect of the thing forgotten. As such, it is neither a sad tale nor a joyful one, but a tale of the impersonal radiation of an indifference that bathes everything in “the measureless evenness of the murmur” (p.80) and the equanimity of its light. Or, as Blanchot states as he pivots between the two divided sections of this book: “The forgetting of light in light” (p.44) and “Forgetting, the latent gift” (p.45).

    And so it is that the characters and (non)events of Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion inhabit this suspended (but circulatory) space of the present instant: trying to remember something that never actually presented itself in such a way that it could be forgotten, waiting for something that will always arrive (if it arrives) without their knowing it. In a story that is strung forever across this tiniest sliver of a gap, it becomes entirely possible to claim that Awaiting Oblivion is not only one of the longest but also one of the shortest books imaginable.

    “The instant that is between remembering and forgetting.” — “A brief instant.” — “Which does not cease.” — Maurice Blanchot, Awaiting Oblivion (1962/1997, p.43)

    Works Cited:

    Blanchot, Maurice (1982). The Sirens’ Song. (Trans. by Sacha Rabinovitch, Ed. by Gabriel Josipovici). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Proust, Marcel (1928/1956). Swann’s Way. (Trans. by C.K. Scott Moncrieff). New York: The Modern Library Inc.

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