Modernity, and Globalism by extension, are marked by a resistance to forget. Archiving tools such as cloud storage and archive.org make that forgetting very difficult. But forgetting has always served a useful (and backward) cultural purpose. Ancient societies relied on forgetfulness to cover the truth behind myth. A phoenix rising from the ashes might have been the story of a burn victim, or a mermaid a drowning victim, retold until the victims became mythical, unifying, and cathartic. If the culture couldn’t forget, it couldn’t coalesce.
Human consciousness relies on forgetfulness to convince ourselves that our desires are our own and never learned from others. Obsessively collecting X to feed our “being” until we’re broke is a pathological reversal of our resentment of someone else’s “being” owning a lot of X at an earlier time. Psychoanalysis employs forgetfulness to trick us into believing our desires are our own, yet the unconscious “other” within us must be quelled via certain actions (sexual acts, ritual, etc). We forget so we can have a self of desire, and culture is a culmination of our collective forgetfulness.
Forgetfulness is faced with its worst enemy yet – digital archiving. By extension, human culture and our ego is in peril, but culture has fascinating ways of dealing with these situations.
In a recent interview I predicted that soon there won’t be anything left to discover because everything will have been archived, or at least archivable, and stored across P2P networks. But new data (videos, pictures, anecdotes…) is syndicated through mass media and social networks at exponential rates to generate ad revenue at every turn, drowning out old data, which has far fewer copies and citations. A single data point from today’s news, when syndicated across social networks and mass media, and generating as much ad revenue as it does, amasses a weight millions of times greater than a data point from 10 years ago. When you pile up the last 100 or so anecdotes from your media outlet of choice, a narrative forms that negates almost every other anecdote in history. Great films and books (and people) from 5, 10, 30 years ago start to appear “out of touch” or even “dangerous” if they don’t fit this narrative perfectly, and we begin openly rejecting films and media that we enjoyed just a few years ago.
By comparison, in an archive, all anecdotes are equally set to exactly 1. If all data is instantly archived via P2P networks (we’ll just call it “Insta-Archive”), all retweets, reposts, reshares, and redundancies of an anecdote are channeled into a single data point with weight 1, and new ideas and anecdotes become new data points with equal weight 1. One anecdote, one equal unit weight. Insta-Archive would create search results conforming to a consumer’s personal narrative. In today’s world we seek out content that conforms to our narrative, but in an Insta-Archive world where all anecdotes are set to 1, there would be no mass media current to sway us. Our own interactions would shift our narratives on a daily basis with every new data point. This would theoretically implode the ad industry, mass media, and social media, which rely on selling one of a handful of narratives (there might be three or four at most in America, which coalesce as they pull in global customers), but it would be overwhelmingly good for all customers, and fantastic for non-mainstream anecdotes.
In the Insta-archive internet, old content weighs the same as new content. Archive-Flix would theoretically recommend you watch some Fukusaku after your Miike experience, some Melville and Becker after Nikita. Maybe Netflix and Amazon do this already, but their streaming services have grown more and more modern-biased. Again it’s obvious that positing a theoretical Insta-archive environment is impossible in our world because our content is created based on weighted anecdotes to increase that anecdote’s weight and jump on ad and global market trends. Setting all anecdotes to 1 creates an incentive to produce new things, and consumers can then enjoy all the things out there that had been buried up until then.
It’s true we’re entering an age when there’s nothing left to discover and nothing can be fully forgotten. But the ad and mass media structure that ignores anecdotes in the interest of “catering” is a disaster. That structure, in the interest of surviving, buckets all “outsider” opinions into a dangerous group replete with “internet trolls” and other mythical imagery, atomizing their narratives, while converting as many “insider” customers to its narrative trend as possible. Every new insider who pushes the narrative means more ad revenue. But recently the “outsiders” acquired the means to broadcast outside of these networks, and when they realized they outnumbered the “insiders”, interesting things happened.
It’s vital now for this new group of “outsiders” not to capitalize off the same tactics as the “insiders” used against them. Stand up for archiving and always be against forgetting.