April 5: We’re Going on a Field Trip!

March 31st, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

School Bus, by Phillip Capper on Flickr: http://bit.ly/gv4hGE

…to the Library! We’re meeting with Wendy Scheir and Allen Jones at 4pm in room 908 at 55 West 13th Street.

Ann Hamilton: Videos + A Little Text

March 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

All the videos I would have shared with you in class today if we had more time:

On Indigo Blue @ the Spoleto Festival & SFMOMA:

On Testimony, at the Venice Biennale:

On Corpus @ Mass MoCA:

And here’s a little something I wrote a while ago for a conference:

We might say that visual artist and MacArthur honoree Ann Hamilton feels a sort of “archival impulse”—although not the kind that has gripped some of her contemporaries, like Sam Durant and Tacita Dean. While these artists, according to Foster (2004), collect and combine détourned everyday objects into a “quasi-archival architecture [of]…platforms, stations, or kiosks,” Hamilton uses quotidian materials—from bread to blue jeans to pink Pearl erasers—to form inhabitable, multisensory archival landscapes. In her installations, which engage the histories of their sites, she creates these palimpsestic landscapes by layering sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture, then activating the scene with simple, repeated movements, or what Lunberry (2004) calls “accretions of gesture.” I argue that, through the material abundance of her work, and through its lack of familiarity to typical “archival architectures,” Hamilton’s work allows its inhabitants to create new, unfamiliar affective connections to history. It calls attention to the limitations of the official historical record and suggests means of refreshing the archive’s architectures and materials.

“I’m very interested in the hierarchies of our habits of perception,” Hamilton says, noting in particular “our” prioritization of “the discursive structure of words” over other “ways of knowing” (quoted in Coffey 2001). Her work frequently questions the authority of the verbal and textual record. Aleph, for instance, includes a video close-up of Hamilton’s mouth, full of marbles, rendering her mute. For myein, she recited Lincoln’s second inaugural address in phonetic code and covered the inside walls of the Venice Biennale’s American Pavilion with a Braille translation of Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony: The United States (1885-1915). Both pieces questioned the universality of language and called attention to the archive’s—and, in the latter case, American history’s—unheard voices. Meanwhile, indigo blue and tropos involved the “unmaking” of a book through erasure, or by burning away the text, line by line. Rather than an act of destruction, however, this unmaking represented a means of “clearing the field,” making room for another “material kind of telling” (quoted in Wallach 2008).

Hamilton seeks to evoke history’s “untold stories…through a material presence” (ibid.). In mattering, for instance, a person sitting in a perch draws up from the floor a long line of typewriter tape and “weaves” it around his hands. The gesture links mechanical production to handicraft, and, considered in light of the installation’s title, “mattering,” represents the transformation of materiality, and the human labor that produces it, into something that matters. Embodiment is entwined with epistemology (even her experiments with mouth-held pinhole cameras argue for an embodied record-making). Hamilton’s work addresses “the way the body through physical labor leaves a transparent presence in material and how labor is a way of knowing” (quoted in Wallach).

While we might not regard Hamilton’s installations as archives themselves, they do call into question the contents and architectures of the historical record. She proposes that a history rooted not only in extraordinary events, but also in the everyday—its artifacts, sensations, labor, simple gestures—requires an archive that is embodied, material, and living.

“What Is Jennifer Aniston Having for Breakfast?” and Other Important Research Questions

March 29th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Our classmate Steve sent me an Economist Flash Interview” with Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, who cites a University of Michigan study in which “they had a team of students find answers to a set of questions using materials in the campus library. Then another team had to answer the same set of questions using Google.” According to Hal, “It took them 7 minutes to answer the questions on Google and 22 minutes to answer them in the library. Think about all the time saved! Thirty years ago, getting answers was really expensive, so we asked very few questions. Now getting answers is cheap, so we ask billions of questions a day, like “what is Jennifer Aniston having for breakfast?” We would have never asked that 30 years ago.”

And the fact that we’re asking that question now — and valorizing the technology that can provide a quick answer — is a sign of progress? The study, “A Day Without a Search Engine,” is here.

Steve writes:

Its an interesting study, but what I find more interesting is a) how they conducted it and b) why Varian finds this to be so interesting/awesome.

We were talking about ideology in relation to archives and, while we can agree that the internet is not an archive exactly, I still think this illustrates a good point about how an ideology can shape the nature of an archive (or at least can set parameters as to what information is considered valuable, which in turn could form the basis of a given archive’s content).  Apparently, the study took “a random sample of 2515 queries from a major search engine”; this is a great method for studying many things, but not necessarily for studying the efficacy of googling vs. researching in the library.  I think that this (and Varian) assumes that a) search engines and libraries are used for the same thing and b) that the two contain the same information.  It also assumes that one would ask the same questions of the search engine and of the library (or archive).   The internet (or search engines) gives rise to not only new sets of information (such as celebrity breakfast habits- and yes, google quickly directed me to the fact that Jennifer Aniston eats egg-white omelets when she needs to lose a few quick pounds!) but also to new sets of queries. Varian acknowledges the new set of queries, but merely treats it as something to be quantified and spoken of in terms of efficiency and productivity, but we are only being productive in a very narrow sense- yes, trivia is ever-more accessible, but that is because search engines are designed to make it so, not because it has more actual value than obscure documents or bits of information.  This is a problem for the future of both libraries and archives, I think: as this worldview (that something’s value is proportional to how many people search for it or link to it) becomes more normalized, more obscure pieces of information will be inevitably cast aside; worse, less and less people will notice or care when information and documents are cast aside.

Digitization Discussion

March 25th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Neo Libre – Content Digitization from Neo Libre on Vimeo.

The two most popular recommendations for use of our open week on April 5 were (1) discussing digitization and (2) welcoming a guest speaker. I’ve combined the two by inviting both Wendy Scheir, Director of the Kellen Archives, and Allen Jones, Director of Digital Library Programs at The New School, to talk with us about the practical concerns of digitization in libraries and archives. They’d like to respond to your specific interestsso please propose discussion topics and questions by replying to this post.



What’s Your Ontology?

March 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Spotted by Rory in C-Town:

Now that’s one hell of a classification system!

Media Histories: Epistemology, Materiality, Temporality @ Columbia Univ., March 25-26

March 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m totally going to this!

Conference Website

Columbia University—IKKM Weimar—Princeton University

How can we write the history of media technologies and highlight their impact on aesthetics and knowledge without relapsing into deterministic or apocalyptic modes of thinking? And how can we write the histories of media without privileging cultural semantics over the technical materialities of media? What constitutes the materiality of a medium: its technological apparatus, the epistemic conditions of its gradual emergence and evolution, or its appropriation and use in various cultural practices? How do disciplinary epistemologies shape or impede our understanding of media? To what extent do media write and conceive of their own history and evolution?

In the last two decades the history and materiality of media have become central analytic issues within the humanities and social sciences. The inextricable link between the study of media and the means and methods of writing history calls for revising the conflicting priorities of various fields that range from the philosophy of history to the history of technology. This conference aims at examining and juxtaposing the competing paradigms that delineate the field of media history. The rise of media archaeology in Germany has spawned a distinctive tradition, whose influence is only beginning to be felt in North America. But in this tradition, the study of media histories was originally pursued not for its own sake but to reconceptualize the histories of literature, science, and aesthetics through an analysis of their dependence on media. In the same period in the U.S., early cinema emerged as a new paradigm in film studies; art historians began to conceptualize material transformations of sensory perception, and historians of science set out to highlight the material agency of technologies. Disciplines as diverse as architecture, anthropology and literary studies, have also begun to stretch our conceptions of the discursive and technical origins of media technologies.

The international symposium will bring together scholars from both sides of the Atlantic and fromthese various disciplines to assess the differences and commonalities that constitute the historical study of media. Taking place from March 24 to March 26, 2011 on the campus of Columbia University, the conference is organized by the Columbia University Seminar on the Theory and History of Media (Andriopoulos, Larkin), the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy Weimar (IKKM Weimar; Engell, Siegert), the Program in Media and Modernity and the Aesthetics and Media Track of the German Department at Princeton University (Levin, Wegmann), and the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University (Martin). The conference will be opened with a keynote lecture by Jonathan Crary and feature an evening lecture by Joseph Vogl. Four panels will juxtapose and contrast different approaches to an overlapping set of materials and questions.

NSSR Memory Conference, March 24-26

March 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

March 24-26, 2011

The Fourth Annual Interdisciplinary Memory Conference
The New School for Social Research, New York City

There are lots of archive-related panels! See in particular:

Friday 2:00-3:45pm: Digital Memory—Room 510, 66 West 12th Street

●      Al-Andalus and how it lives on online
Omar Al-Ghazzi (Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania)

●      Crowdsourcing Memory: Archives 2.0 and Historical Presence
David Kim (Information Studies, UCLA)

●      Virtual feelings of kinship: Challenging the legitimacy of remembering in post-dictatorial Argentina
Cecilia Sosa (Drama Department, Queen Mary, University of London)

●      Memory in the Age of Digital Technology
Diana Taylor (Performance Studies, New York University)

Moderator: Karen Strassler (Anthropology, Queens College, CUNY)

“To the Source” Symposium @ Rutgers, March 31

March 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

To the Source Symposium

THURSDAY, March 31, 2011 | 11:00 AM–6:30 PM
School of Communication and Information (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey)

This one-day symposium will explore the theory and practice generated around the concept of SOURCE. Across a series of events, we will reflect on practices of collecting, politics and publics of the archive, critical thought initiated from and disciplinary discourses framing the primary source, as well as the materiality and form of the source, be it letter, daguerreotype or digital object. This discussion aims to transcend boundaries – by bringing together academics and practitioners from a wide range of institutions of the cultural record. We want to attract an audience from equally varied backgrounds. The symposium also aptly marks the ten-year anniversary of Rutgers University, School of Communication and Information’s student organization known as SOURCE (Student Organization for Unique and Rare Collections Everywhere), which we will celebrate with a reception at the end of the day.

11:00 AM-12:00 PM | School of Communication and Information (Room 323)
“What’s in a Photograph?”: A Brief Introduction to Photo Identification and Preservation
A Workshop with KEVIN SCHLOTTMANN (Center for Jewish History)
Moderator: Jill Baron (Rutgers University)
Due to space limitation, this event is by registration only – RSVP jebaron@eden.rutgers.edu.
1:00 PM-3:00 PM | Alexander Library (4th floor lecture hall)
Material Inscriptions, Collections, and Their Publics
  • JARED ASH (Newark Public Library)
“Text, schmext!”: Collecting Books as Objects of Art and Design
  • KARLA NIELSEN (University of Illinois)
Reading Erasure in the Archive: The Making of Medieval Spanish Literature
  • LAURA E. HELTON (New York University)
On the Politics of Collecting: Archival Publics and African American Documentary Practice, 1920-1960
  • IULIAN VAMANU (Rutgers University)
North American Indigenous Curators’ Discourses of Aboriginality and Material Practices of Curation: A Case Study of the “Song for the Horse Nation” exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NYC)
  • Moderator: Marija Dalbello (Rutgers University)

3:15 PM-4:45 PM | Alexander Library (4th floor lecture hall)
From Fever to Folder: Applying Critical Theory and Activism in the Archives

  • JENNA FREEDMAN (Barnard College)
  • LAURA HELTON (New York University)
  • JONATHAN LILL (Museum of Modern Art)
  • MARK MATIENZO (Yale University Library)
  • Moderator and respondent: Rachel Miller (Center for Jewish History)
5:00 PM-6:30 PM | Alexander Library (4th floor lecture hall)
Rutgers Seminar in the History of the Book Keynote
SONIA CANCIAN (Université de Montréal /Concordia University)
The Poetics and Politics in the Intimate Worlds of Immigrant and Homeland Epistolarity
The lecture is free and open to the public. 

6:30 PM-9:00 PM | School of Communication and Information (2nd floor Student Lounge)
Reception “SOURCE at 10” & “To the SOURCE on the Field” (Panel)


  • JOHN BEEKMAN (Jersey City Free Public Library)
  • CYNTHIA HARRIS (Jersey City Free Public Library)
  • MATTHEW LYONS (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
  • J. FERNANDO PEÑA (Grolier Club)
  • LAURA POLL (Monmouth County Historical Society)
  • Moderators: Carolyn Dorsey (Rutgers University) and Ana Ramirez Luhrs (Lafayette College)

“SOURCE at 10” and “To the SOURCE on the Field” is by registration only – RSVP Carolyn Dorsey carolynd@eden.rutgers.edu / Ana Ramirez Luhrs luhrsa@lafayette.edu.

Beyond Books conference in Boston, April 6-7

March 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Our own Alex K. will be attending this fantastic conference in Boston in early April, and she thought some of you might be interested, too. Graduate student fellowships are available until March 15!

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The capability of newspapers to provide community information is declining. At the same time, informal sources of local information are rapidly increasing.

Libraries and legacy media have always shared a common purpose — helping us acquire the information we need to be engaged, informed (and entertained) citizens. They used different tools — newspapers, broadcast stations and books. Now the tools are converging — web search, data taxonomies, database creation and analysis, social networks — as librarians and journalists together foster civic literacy and engagement.

Librarians want to expand public access to accurate information, including trustworthy local news. So do journalists. How do we expand libraries as community information centers beyond books — perhaps even beyond their four walls — facilitating and engaging with journalists? What can libraries and journalists do — together — to foster improved access to community information?

Thus, as the tools and mission converge, it’s time to ask: “What’s possible at the intersection of libraries and journalism that serves the information needs of communities and democracy?”

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 6 and 7, 2011, Journalism That Matters,  (the American Library Association,) the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, the Media Giraffe Project at UMass Amherst the New England News Forum and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute invite you to join in a work session for civic information transparency that builds from and beyond books.

Via a pre-event social network, an evening agenda-setting dialogue, a day of roundtable planning and closing action commitments, we’ll discover what’s possible at the intersection of public spaces, open documents, citizen reporting and journalistic purpose.  Among the questions we may ask:

  • What might libraries do to facilitate community social news networks?
  • Must free speech be absolute within a taxpayer-supported institution?
  • How do we define the boundaries between engagement and partisanship?
  • Are libraries poised to become public-access media centers as cable fades?
  • Should a library operate a news collective, non-profit or citizen-journalism service?
  • How can libraries help preserve a free digital information commons?