Last week I attended  Laura Wexler and Lauren Tilton’s Talk, “Image, Archive and Event: Tracking the Archive’s Odyssey,”. I was very interested by the speakers’ points about archive today, but what intrigued me the most was a question that was posed at the end of the talk. One professor questioned the lack of privacy that comes with the archive and therefore the it’s context. The professor questioned wether or not archiving is some kind of breech of privacy. This question really made me think about archive and social media today. I began to wonder if there really was such a thing as privacy when it comes to archive. Wexler and Tilton addressed the professor’s question, and told the professor that they had been in a situation where someone contacted them, stating their concern about a photograph that had been misinterpreted.

After Weller and Tilton had finished talking, another professor chimed in on the subject of privacy. This professor stated that any sort of research requires breaking privacy- the minute you begin to dig into a topic, you have exposed it. This comment really resonated with the thoughts I was having during the talk. I began to wonder…in order for something to be called private, don’t you have to have already started to expose the subject by questioning why it is private? Maybe this is a stretch, but is there really then such a thing as privacy with regards to archive? And what does something require for it to be private?
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2 responses »

  1. zainjazara says:

    The issue of privacy comes up for me a lot whenever we discuss technology as a whole, let alone archiving. Do we really have much privacy in a day and age where our every move can be tracked electronically? Face recognition technology is used on Facebook, so imagine how easily governments can keep track of us. Also, there are so many problems with privacy, security, and the internet. People can hack into our most private information (such as our credit card information or even our pictures: e.g. the nude pictures of celebrities leaked from their private cellphones), and it is all logged forever the instant it is typed into the internet. Furthermore, just think back to Edward Snowden or Wikileaks. The idea of privacy becomes extremely flimsy when we realize just how much of our lives are infused with information-gathering technology.

  2. cassidy says:

    Your post reminds me of a class I took at Scripps in last semester about feminist archiving. Essentially, what makes an archive ‘feminist’ is the involvement of the archived subject in the archiving process. In the archives we looked at, the archived subjects were all people and their experiences, so the archive was composed of interviews and other testimonies from the people themselves. In this case, there isn’t so much an issue of privacy because the archived subject has complete control over their representation. So often this isn’t the case and archiving is a used as a neocolonial tool to enforce violent hegemony or one person’s side of the story (usually that person is of the ‘dominant’ culture, race, gender, sexuality, or class!) – however intentional or not. I think that is when issues of privacy are most prevalent. The invocation of privacy assumes something is being taken from an unwilling subject. The archiving of that unwilling subject should be questioned.

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