chapter  6
26 Pages

Lost in Translation: Authenticity and the Ontology of the Archive

In the previous chapter I looked at an effort to put a vision of seamless interactivity

into practice. In following a project from an abstract imperative during the dot.

com boom, through a complex rethinking, to a resigned ‘rethink’, I argued that the

veneer of digital culture is made and sustained through a proliferation of non-digital

elements. With some of these elements come powerful cultural inscriptions, such as

the trust relation between printing and human intent, which are difficult to enfold

into digital versions. Of particular significance were notions of immaterialization

and the practical difficulties of making information mobile and immutable. In this

chapter I will explore these notions further in relation to the instability and resilience

of authenticity and memory. The digitization of national archives at the present time

provides the cultural site for such an exploration. One of the central lines of argument

to be developed, in accordance with the overall theme of the book, is that in social

theory the modern archive tends to be positioned in direct opposition to the digital

archive, often in terms of written texts versus digital media. But this bears little

relation to the wrappings of non-digital and digital objects inside the archive, where

material objects are digitized, objects ‘born digital’ are archived, and non-digital

and digital copies of the same object circulate. Again, as I have argued throughout,

a focus upon the interrelations between analogue and digital forms challenges the

notion of archive/network that underpins recent theorizing (cf. Appadurai 2003;

Gane and Beer 2008; Featherstone 2000; Lash 2003).