[Humanist] 28.783 events: the total archive

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Mar 3 08:13:46 CET 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 783.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 2 Mar 2015 14:03:34 +0000
        From: Boris Jardine <bj210 at CAM.AC.UK>
        Subject: Public Lecture: 'A Theory of the Total Archive', N. Katherine Hayles, March 19
        In-Reply-To: <3A708F4999F85F4CA71F166FCD4DC8A41508670C at VM-Kenya.wellcomeit.com>

Dear colleagues,

As part of the conference 'The Total Archive: Dreams of Universal Knowledge 
from the Encyclopaedia to Big Data', taking place at CRASSH, Cambridge, 
19/20 March 2015, I'm pleased to announce details of the following public 

N. Katherine Hayles (Duke), 'A Theory of the Total Archive: Infinite 
Expansion, Infinite Compression, and Apparatuses of Control' CRASSH, West 
Road, Cambridge, 19 March 2015, 6pm

More info: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/26072 / 

Abstract below, no registration needed. I hope to see many of you there!

Best wishes,
Boris Jardine
Munby Fellow in Bibliography, 2014/15
Cambridge University Library


A total archive is of course literally impossible, but in imaginative 
literature, there are two ways to achieve it, as Borges has taught us: 
infinite expansion ("The Library of Babel"), and infinite compression ("The 
Aleph"). Apparent opposites, the two cycle continuously into and through 
one another, as do outside/inside in a Möbius strip or interior/exterior in 
a Klein bottle. The metaphor is not perfect, however, for while the 
transition from outside/inside/outside is seamless in these physical 
examples, with the Archive it is mediated by a hinge instantiated in 
apparatuses of control: institutions, governments, corporations, 
universities. Examples of the hinge's operation include the microbiome 
project aiming to catalogue the DNA and to archive samples of all the 
microbial organisms that inhabit human bodies; Christian Bök's project to 
encode his poetry into the DNA of a microscopic organism known as the 
extremophile; and the experimental print novel/project by J. J. Abrams and 
Doug Dorst known as S. This talk will explore the implications of the 
theory through the examples above and illustrate its operation in detail in 

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