Archives provide our society with a foundation upon which institutions, laws and structures stand. The law of precedents can be seen as one such archive that guides and can predict what kinds of sentences and verdicts will be passed down for a case. Statistics are used within a variety of fields, from psychology to businesses and draw upon data gathered from archives to make predictions. Lessons are archived within history. Values are archived within documents such as constitutions, religious texts and stories. What society is today, and what it will be, is deeply rooted in the archives that we possess and create.
This line of thought leads me to remember George Orwell’s book 1984. A novel set in a society where the documents were altered and distributed so many times that one is not sure what the truth is anymore. For the archive also acts as memory that can be far more reliable than what a human brain recalls. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news publications, entertainment and education, alters things such as the rations of supplies and who they are currently warring with which in turn manipulate the feelings and sentiments of the public. It provides a very good example of the importance in keeping archives.
Of course 1984 is an extreme example that concerns a dystopian society, but that doesn’t make it less true that our society is heavily influenced by, if not entirely operating around, the archives that we keep and maintain.
We live in a world where almost everything is documented, and this is even truer with the prevalence of self-publishing websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Think of common everyday aspects of life. Banking, working and pay, newspapers, articles and administrative documents. These all affect society in how they choose to spend their money, what they value and how people live their lives. With technological advances, there are even more ways than before to archive every moment of our day. Some older examples would be surveillance cameras, credit card history and phone history but newer things would include blogging, tweets, flickr and instagram.
I think what Matthew Ogle has said in his blog entry rings very true. That “without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering.”
In what ways does this new way of remembering impact us? For one, I think it changes how people can come to socialise. Whereas previously a stranger is a stranger and you don’t know anything about them, now you can google them or find them on facebook and have a look through their past activity. This is the same if you happen to chance upon someone on twitter or a blog, there’s a history of what that person has posted which becomes a sort of snapshot into what kind of person they are. We reveal much more information about our selves to strangers now without deliberately meaning to.
Perhaps this is a reason why privacy surrounding the net and the data shared across the net has become such an important topic. It’s become so simple for users to share information that if not handled correctly, users could be exploited. Not only do browsing habits and likes provide a wealth of information to commercial companies, there is also a lot of sensitive data that can be found online. Information like full names, addresses, emails and passwords. As the internet is being integrated more and more into our lives, the things that we do online can come to be associated with a lot of money and worth (For example, a library of games on steam, or access to a bank account) and for that information to fall into the wrong hands can be disastrous.