Exam Season

Picture1I have a history of using meme’s to announce exam period is beginning. I confess to using bleak cultural reference to do this because it makes me giggle.  Hopefully a bit of humor breaks up the test taking stress. I know I always appreciated it as a student. Here’s to finals season. May the odds be ever in your favor.afab1157-5d16-4fb9-94ce-34180bd32a4d

Freud, Derrida and Electronic Records – Beginnings

For some reason, hubris, scholarly ambition or possibly madness, I’ve begun an extremely slow and careful reading of Archive Fever by Derrida. Often times postmodern issues, this work in particular, crop up in classes, research and impolite conversation, and I felt that it was needed to really give it a careful reading and test my scholastic mettle. If you’re not familiar with this work which began life as a lecture, the major premise of the pieces is that it’s essentially a “fever” or a disease to believe that the archive is a reputable repository for information. That in essence the archive is a poor place due to many complications for our collective memory. Derrida explains this by investigating Freud, and his many concepts of individual memory.

Unknown to me was that as I approached finishing the “Exergue”, I noticed that Derrida began what I consider a hasty conversation about how electronic records and their impact on archival veracity. He calls technology, ”these radical and interminable turbulences.”1 He further posits, and suggests that technology today causes issues with what is archivable and the process of archiving itself. Derrida seems to imply that older documents are more reliable records than modern records by implying that their creations had a certain intentionality, and that the intent to create them makes them more trust worthy. Where as, more modern records have been impacted extremely by technology and “archival structure”, which lessens their reliability. This is an interesting point, if this is Derrida’s intent, with this short aside on technology and archives. Unfortunately, it is quickly introduced and left with the reader more left to ponder such ideas as the “Mystic Writing Pad”.2

Derrida does promise to return more to this issue later in his work, but really this is an interesting premise that begs an important question. Does the fact that new technologies exist that remove some intentionality from the creation of archival record somehow remove trust in the archives? My opinion is no it doesn’t, but I reject much of the idea behind Archive Fever the more I read of it. This doesn’t mean that their aren’t unexpected questions that can be asked of the archival profession from engaging with this complex piece. So just as Derrida promise to explain himself better, I too promise to keep reading.

  1. Archive Fever, 18. 
  2. This Atlantic piece discusses the concept of the Mystic Writing Pad in a better context than does Derrida.http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/the-mystic-writing-pad-what-would-freud-make-of-todays-tablets/272512/ 

To Know the World – Thinking about Archival Appraisal

To know the world, one has to penetrate it as deeply as possible.

I recently came across this quote by Ryszard Kapuscinski in a Vice article. I was completely unfamiliar with Kapuscinski either the journalist or the author before stumbling into this bit of text in a, but this quote really got me thinking about the course on appraisal I started teaching on Monday. In some respects, this quote gets at the heart of the issues surrounding a appraisal.

Appraisal of records for some is a task so daunting that it cause that is cause physical anxiety, and can lead some to not wish to appraise at all. To these thinkers, it’s impossible to know what to select. This mind set also could lead to an over reliance on schedules and systems that seem to completely remove the archivist from the decision making process. In this scenario the archivist becomes passive, and seemingly unbiased, but even schedules have to be applied by someone.

To others decisions can be made on feelings and gut reactions. A sense of knowing what’s right for collections just comes quite naturally. To this person whether through actual research and study or a perceived understanding of a subject, they are guided by their knowledge/feelings to make their decisions for inclusion. This mindset can often become stale or over reliant on outdated or incorrect knowledge of a subject. Bias is often most prevalent for this type of archivist. They often doesn’t understand new trends in research and may even diminish voices that are not as prominent in the records they regularly see.

Each extreme perspective is flawed deeply. One rejects the archivist agency in the appraisal process, and suggest that they’re role be eliminated. The other relies to much on the archivist. Of course there’s a middle ground and this is where I come back to the Kapuscinski quote. I  feel that when we examine materials for inclusion in archives we need to find a way “to penetrate it as deeply as possible”. To me this idea of “penetrating” a subject deeply could be used to frame a discussion about how we accomplish a systematic appraisal of records and involves an examination that can include functional analysis and other traditional and historical focused appraisal techniques. Kapuscinski suggest that we go into a subject as far as we can so that we can fully understand it. This is what archivist need to do, and not settle for just one approach when it comes to appraisal.

Archiving Engagment

Citizen Solider pop up exhibit in Special Collections reading room

Here’s a post from Georgia College’s ENGAGE program about the presentation I recent did with Katie Simon and Tess Lyle about the Citizen Solider Project @ Georgia College  blog.


This project involved working with freshmen student, artist Jack Leamy, Katie, Tess (a TA), community groups, and most of the library’s departments.

Dark Souls II Review – GameSpot Or Teaching Should be more Like Dark Souls

I think we should take a page out the From Software playbook when it comes to approaches to teaching. Offer no comfort. Present new “dangerous” ideas to students, and teach them to face what’s coming because it won’t always be nice and pretty.

After three games of hitting a wall at the 30-hour mark, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin eventually stopped screaming at me and started teaching, in the way that every good teacher should: it took away comfort. Every moment that felt safe and familiar from the last outing was infused with danger, with a new enemy, a new reaction to obstacles, a cue to always be ready to face what’s around the corner–a constant awareness that doesn’t go away the closer you get to the endgame.

Dark Souls II Review – GameSpot.

Marquette Warrior Free Speech Debate: Blog Post Was Ethics Breach | The New Republic

Marquette Warrior Free Speech Debate: Blog Post Was Ethics Breach | The New Republic.

I came to the exactly same conclusion as the author of this New Republic. This was way less about possible political correctness and more about the actions of the faculty member. It’s hard not to talk about your students, but it’s doubly important in how you criticize them in public.

There have been layers to this debate, but this is the major point from this piece.

The problem comes from the fact that Abbate was a student at his university. Professors should never even risk sparking viral outrage against students. What’s especially troubling is that he insulted not just Abbate’s ideas, or her behavior in some general sense, but her academic performance. If he were for whatever reason privy to her transcript, would we defend his free-speech right to blog about its contents? 



A New Library

Colonnade editorial from 1929 asking for a new library for GSCW


This is a great editorial that was written before the current Georgia College Library came into existence. What I find fascinating about this student’s argument for a library centered around how important a library collection is to attracting students to a campus and to make sure that the college’s reputation. These two ideas are central to how we advocate for libraries today. I also found it funny that the student is begging for works of fiction to read, which is a request we hear a lot at Georgia College. Though I’m going to disagree about those dime editions. They are some kind of wonderful.