Shiny new archives? On the politics, history, and ethics of archives under the condition of big data

With some vigour, American artist and information studies scholar Johanna Drucker clarifies: ‘the notion of data as “given” and thus self-evident is patently false – all data are constructed’ [Visualization, 563]. Since data are not just given, the questions then are who produces data, who decides what data are stored, maintained, and deleted, who profits and who is discriminated in and through data sets? The glossary Uncertain archives: Critical keywords for big data (2021) sets out to tackle these questions.


Could we imagine an argument that would scrutinize both the organized world and the organization of our discourses about it? Such would be neither empirical nor theoretical (as these terms are conventionally understood), neither comprehensive nor focused on a single source. Each of the exhibits that we have assembled in this issue might go somewhat toward showing how this might be possible. If it is. But this task does not imply an innocent dreaming (perhaps in the warmth of one’s bed). Instead it involves a doing, a taking out of the house. A demonstrating. A showing.

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