Distribution and aggregation: its relevance in our world today

It is abundantly clear that the introduction of new media and a digital culture has broken down barriers to many forms of distribution and aggregation. Not only does this apply to stand alone devices such as computers and mobiles as Andrew notes, but also includes how our distribution and aggregation within the social and the public sphere.

Hubert Guillaud, writing a reflection of Danah Boyd’s “Flow of Information through New Media Speech“, discusses how historically forms of distribution were much simpler but also much more highly regulated, with the power lying in “those who control the channels of distribution”. However as we all know and he notes these structures are rapidly collapsing, with participants (actors) of the digital network now holding that power.

John Salvo notes that moving from an Information Age to a Systems Age involves “sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision… the separation between leaders and followers will cease to exist, as the internet democratizes the planet and good information becomes ubiquitous”.

However Boyd makes a good point here – she notes that just because WE now have the power to dictate what is distributed within the public sphere, that does not mean that attention is divided equally. In fact, as I’ve noted in previous blog posts, I’d take it one step further and say in a way attention is even harder to maintain now than maybe 50 years ago. This is because not only do users prefer fast bursts of information, but this explosion in the amount of “publishers” means that it is harder to get your voice heard. Obviously easier access to distribution and the destructuring of mediators makes getting it out there easier, but that’s not equivalent to being heard.

Another point which relates to this that Guillaud discusses through Boyd’s speech is that we choose content that stimulates us, not necessarily content that is informative. She notes the example of Facebook, saying it gives rise to parasocial relations: “on Facebook, you can turn your friends into celebrities, without actually gaining the benefits of social intimacy and bonding.” I think to an extent this is definitely true. For example, I have about 1,100 friends on Facebook, but if I had to count how many I interact with personally and physically regularly it would be about a tenth of that number. Regardless, how I publish and distribute data is affected by all of these 1,100 friends. I think this demonstrates Boyd’s point – that sense of connection that was there before has diminished to an extent. It becomes a way of representing one’s public image, rather than actually building a connective network. Boyd in her blog stated that during her presentation, having tweets projected on the big screen meant that she lost connection with her listeners, who became more invested in their communication with themselves.

Therefore, as Andrew notes, aggregation and distribution are forms of expression; ways of personalisation. YOU dictate your world by choosing what, with whom, and how you engage both digitally and physically. These forms of content/expression then turn into your experience, which you later archive. And this is the neverending circle of publishing!


Theories –> practices –> archive fever

The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.


Theories, as Andrew states in the lecture this week, are a “form of mediation/communication between ideas and practices” that allow us new ways of “understanding familiar things, so that we can work with them differently; or sometimes so that they might work differently.”

So, for example, classical conditioning is a theory. It connects the idea that learning occurs through interactions with the environment with the practice below. (as performed by Ivan Pavlov).

Now let’s look at archive fever. Jacques Derrida, author of ‘Archive Fever’, argues that archives are a basis for authority by having an ability to determine what is “inside” and “outside” out culture.

Ironically, Julie Enszer’s blog post, which summarises the writings of Derrida, is part of an archive surrounding his work . The irony is seen where she notes: “the archive is shaped by the “paternal and patriarchic, principle only posited itself to repeat itself and returned to re-posit itself only in parricide”.

archive fever


Further, we can see in the above photo that Facebook is a prime example of an archive. On Derrida’s page there is a year-by-year recording of his activities, and his information, photos and interests (“likes”) are categorised also. I think this highlights the 3 definitions of what archives are (as stated in the lecture):

  • a basis for individual or collective memory (we can view what happened in 2009 where our memories fail us)
  • a basis for authority, social formations, culture (those that have “liked” his page have formed a community)
  • a basis for individual/collective experience (we can experience as a community the activities of Derrida*)

*the guys that run his page

As Ogle comments: “without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering. The real-time web might just be the most elaborate and widely-adopted architecture for self-archival ever created.”

However he also notes a problem with this – “the current philosophy underlying most of the real-time web is that if it’s not recent, it’s not important. This is what we need to change.”

The way in which digital media advancements have influenced this is phenomenal (as I mention in every blog post). Omeka is one good example of this. As explained on their site, Omeka is “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.” I.e. technology = archive-making in 5 minutes. Me having this blog for example, is me setting up an archive. Thank you WordPress.

PS. I know Andrew suggested avoiding using Facebook as an example, but I couldn’t help but think it was the easiest way to exemplify the idea!