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The probability archive: essence, uncertainty, and the 'Olduvai imperative'

Hartley, John 2011. The probability archive: essence, uncertainty, and the 'Olduvai imperative'. Presented at: International Communication Association's 61st Annual Conference, Boston USA, 26-30 May 2011.

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Starting from a local problem with finding an archival clip on YouTube, this paper expands to consider the nature of archives in general. It considers the technological, communicative and philosophical characteristics of archives over three historical periods: 1) Modern ‘essence archives’ – museums and galleries organised around the concept of objectivity and realism; 2) Postmodern mediation archives – broadcast TV systems, which I argue were also ‘essence archives,’ albeit a transitional form; and 3) Network or ‘probability archives’ – YouTube and the internet, which are organised around the concept of probability. The paper goes on to argue the case for introducing quantum uncertainty and other aspects of probability theory into the humanities, in order to understand the way knowledge is collected, conserved, curated and communicated in the era of the internet. It is illustrated throughout by reference to the original technological 'affordance' – the Olduvai stone chopping tool.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2016 03:05

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