One of the most pronounced thematic elements that has occurred to me thus far in Codex is the notion of the mysterious allure of the archive. In detailing Edward Wosny’s growing preoccupation with organizing the Went’s collection of manuscripts, in particular his search for the controversial, supposed opus of Graves of Langford, Grossman portrays an enterprise which might ordinarily be considered uneventful and monotonous to the contrary, as a catalyst for the main character’s surreal precipitation into a sort of liminal state. Edward himself seems to regard his situation with mixed feelings, suggesting the existence of concurrent senses of compulsion and apprehension with regard to this sudden undertaking.

Later, when he is introduced by Zeph to a somewhat similarly arcane video game known as MOMUS, the effect on Edward’s psychological condition is potentiated further.  In conjunction with various other narrative elements, these focal points combine to serve as a suggestion that is being made by the author with regard to the nature of human psychology. At this point in the story, Codex seems to  become increasingly overt in its assertions about the innate motivations that underlie particular aspects of human behavior. Much ado about this is divulged via Edward’s internal monologue. Though previously dismissive of video games and “nerd” culture in general, Edward comes to find himself at an exclusive “LAN party,” physically and emotionally in the throws of said culture and consequently attempting to reconcile his emergent feelings with his previous outlook on the medium. Elucidation is provided in Edward’s internal meditation on the appeal of MOMUS. To himself at least, he suggests that the game represents an alternative, clearer, more well-ordered version of reality. As such it is discrete and more easily processable, its fundamentally tautological nature making it void of the ambiguity and existential pressure of his daily life.

To this degree, MOMUS serves to represent  the archive as an abstraction, the macrocosmic analogue, or manifestation rather, of the fundamental drive of human beings to organize sensory experience, specifically in relation to a shared temporal context. Edward, representing humanity at large more or less, is motivated to do so in order to project a sense of order and control onto his environment, particularly with regard to the temporal dimension, being as it is the most allusive space with regard to the bio-physical constraints of the human mind. This is to say that the author is alluding to the dual meaning of the word “archive” in a way similar to Derridard. He points out the notion of archive as an action, and seems to imply that it is a primordial one at that resulting from the biology-driven contention of temporal beings against the pervasive manifold of existential pressure that is experienced continuously in everyday life. Grossman is possibly hinting at the futility (in an ideal sense) of this effort in the parallel he draws between MOMUS and A Viage to the Contree of the Cimmerians, indicating that their are entities (though not necessarily animate) like the Stag Knight, characterized by a degree of superimposition that allows them to transcend the familiar sense of linear time. This is a rather extreme example, but it serves to highlight a central weakness of the notion of archive, generally speaking, that time is relative.

Recently, I’ve been spending my free time watching a hilarious comedy duo on YouTube called the Game Grumps. One of the Grumps, Erin, gained popularity years back through his animations on Newgrounds.com. I’m leaving Newgrounds as my suggested website for several reasons, the first being that it’s a creative space, where animators, musicians, programmers and artists post their work.

In addition, the website serves as an archive of sorts. It isn’t sorted in a standardized ISBN or ISBD format, but the site organizes itself by genre, tone, originality and subgroups of series that have become staples on the site. I’ve noticed the archival aspect of the site in that I originally found it 9 years ago, and it’s remained the single location where animators who’ve gained popularity from the website ‘keep’ their content.

Like other content sites, Newgrounds boasts features like searching by Author, a rating system, Content descriptions, and a comments section. Unlike other sites, Newgrounds keeps a record of any users who collaborated or were featured in a piece of content. In this way, Newgrounds doesn’t just serve as a means of maintaining and preserving a usable copy of the content, but it also keeps a record of metadata related to the creation, similar to how a library system enables cross-referencing.

  • Thomas Ray

In Codex, we are introduced to the Went’s private library through the eyes of Edward Wozny and Laura Crowlyk explains the history of its shipment to America for safekeeping before World War II:

There was a great deal of hysteria, you understand, everyone thought England would be overrun by the Huns at any moment. I don’t remember it, of course…but at the time there was some wild talk of selling up and moving the entire family across to America” (Grossman, 10).

I immediately thought of the Nazi book burnings during Adolf HItler’s ascent to power which was also relevant to our discussion on Monday about the gatekeepers of archives and the power that they derive from this position.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

PBS American Experience: The Man Behind Hitler (Joseph Goebbels)

The archons are first of all the documents’ guardians. They do not only ensure the physical security of what is deposited and of the substrate. They are also accorded the hermeneutic right and competence. They have the power to interpret the archives. Entrusted to such archons, these documents in effect state the law: they recall the law and call on or impose the law” (Derrida, 10).

HItler was an anti-intellectual who did not see the value of works by non-German and Jewish scholars.  With support from the German Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, students and professors burned 25,000 books in 34 towns across Germany on May 10, 1933 and gave a speech that night in Berlin:

The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you … And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past” (PBS, 2006).

Not only were books burned, but artwork was either stolen or deemed degenerate by HItler, who was a failed artist that had disdain for modern art and those who made or championed it.  When Hitler became dictator, he was given the power of ultimate gatekeeper to control communication, culture, and scholarship in Germany.  Helen Keller, one of the banned authors, wrote in an open letter that while the books can be burned, “the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds” (PBS, 2006). One can only imagine how he would have attempted to control media today with the internet and social media.

SOURCES CITED

Anonymous (2006). “Book Burnings in Germany, 1933” PBS. Retrieved from:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goebbels/peopleevents/e_book.html

Derrida, J. (1995). “Archive Fever:  A Freudian Impression.” Diacritics. 25:2, 10.

Grossman, L. (2004). Codex.10.

While looking at the Went collection, Margaret asks Edward “What cataloging standard are you using? AACR? ISBD?” I wondered what these were and if they would help me to better understand why and how we archive. ISBD looked similar to ISBN, which I know can be used to uniquely identify a specific version or addition of a book, so I decided to start there. ISBD stands for The International Standard Bibliographic Description, and it is a set of rules created by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). One goal of the ISBD that stood out to me the most was that it aims to create a standard that is a “human-readable form.” To me, this says something about why we make archives. This system was created to be human-accessible, not necessarily machine accessible. We assume that at some point, whether it be in the near future or hundreds of years down the line, that the information stored in the archives is going to be of some use or interest to another human being.

But then how do we choose what to archive? For Edward, he was given a very specific job to archive every book in the Went Collection. These books are important because they are old, and their age and/or content might be giving them some value. He is also archiving the books to help with his search for the codex. I decided to look at what the ISBD catalogued to see what types of media they felt were worthy of being archived. I found that there were unique ISBD records for “monographs, older monographic publications, cartographic materials, serials and other continuing resources, electronic resources, non-book materials, and printed music.” Aside from cartographic materials, it seems to me that all of these different types of media are created to tell a story. This makes sense, because humanity has a habit of collecting stories and passing them down. Archives, past and present, serve to make that task easier.

Recently, the New York Times invested in a platform called the history Project, which is a multimedia time capsule that lets users to create their own timelines and choose exactly what is on it. Users can choose to share it or not. This allows users to build a profile online and organize all of their past memories, without having to share it if they don’t want. This is great because people don’t have to go through Facebook, where their most personal memories have to be shared with everyone if they want to post it online. It also differs from Facebook in that you can go back in time and add things to certain dates.

This time capsule can be integrated with websites like YouTube, so you can link up to songs, etc… that you might have loved at a particular time. This new platform provides a great space for biographies and tellings of historical events. You can even have multiple people collaborating on one timeline if the owner allows it.

 

http://venturebeat.com/2015/11/04/the-new-york-times-invests-in-the-history-project-a-multimedia-time-capsule/

 

 

-Natasha Parekh

In 2010, the Library of Congress announced the Twitter Research Access Project: a plan to catalog and preserve the nation’s digital heritage by accessing and acquiring Twitter’s digital archive of tweets and making those tweets available to researchers. Although this might seem like a unique and innovative way to collect research data to tell the American story, this project has been facing a hiatus.

With approximately half a trillion tweets to catalog (as of July 2015), it has been pretty difficult for the Library to keep up with the rapid pace of these social artifacts. Not only would the Library of Congress have to store the 20 billion tweets posted between Twitter’s start in 2006 and the agreement between the Library and Twitter in 2010, it would also have to find a way to keep up with the nearly 400 million tweets that have been posted a day since then. With such a high volume of tweets to store and maintain (especially in an era when they can be deleted and reposted with the click of a few buttons), the Library is struggling to find a way keep up. On top of finding a way to store the tweets, the Library is also struggling with a storage format that makes the tweets indexical and searchable so the researchers have a way to analyze and interpret the data.

I think the most interesting question that the Twitter Research Access Project raises is how to keep up with a vast amount of digital data in an archive. For most of us (at least for me), archives seem like reliable ways to maintain data to retrieve it again at a later date. We live in a culture that is obsessed with keeping records of the past to know and study history, yet we are also in a culture influenced by digital media. When these two spheres of culture attempt to get synthesized through digital archive, it makes an interesting point of whether or not we currently (or will) truly have the resources necessary to keep up with the vast amount of social history recorded through online interactions.

 

Source: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/library-of-congress-twitter-archive-119698.html

 

Resource: ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums

The definition of an archive can vary from agricultural seeds to websites to ancient artifacts. In an attempt to procure, store, and preserve history in every form we archive a wide variety of things. Natural history includes animals, plants, rocks and minerals, and even human remains is no exception to this effort. In the ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums, a standard is set for the procurement and care of these items as the issue of ethics plays a role in the process of doing so.

This resource highlights the important of specific processes for building and adding to an archive. As we become familiar with the diverse array of archives in use, it is important to also recognize the individual challenges each faces. For natural history, the archive or museum must constantly ask themselves questions like:

  • What hazards might this item cause in storage?
  • Is the procurement of this item hurting anyone or anything?
  • Will the absence of this item leave an impact on its ecosystem?

While many historians and scientists agree on the importance of storing natural items, there is room for debate as to what degree archiving things like plants and animals may have on the environment. Even removing a diseased animal for archiving may disrupt the natural flow of its habitat. This code of ethics is a valuable tool and baseline for this discussion as it clearly presents a set of rules and concerns for archivists to keep in mind and hold one another accountable.

JGP

Until this class, I had not thought much about how curators decide on what objects to include in their collections nor did I consider the painstaking work that is put in to organizing all of those objects and keeping them in good condition over time. The thought of libraries overfilling had occurred to me in the past but I quickly dismissed it, thinking that electronic storage of documents would cure that problem soon enough. This class has helped open my eyes to these types of problems and I think they are very interesting to consider. I’ve noticed that this book seems to put a large focus on the fluidity and objectivity of importance, and I think the juxtaposition of Margaret and Zeph showcases that objectivity really well. On their way to the LAN party, Zeph tells Edward about MOMUS, calling it “bigger than books. That library you’re messing around with? Obsolete information technology. We’re witnessing the dawn of a whole new artistic medium, and we don’t even appreciate it”(p. 143). I think it’s interesting how he says “we don’t even appreciate it,” including himself within that group, because he very clearly does appreciate it and tries to share that appreciation with others. It shows that he doesn’t understand the importance of historical artifacts and therefore can’t understand why someone, like Margaret, would have an appreciation or attachment to those objects. Margaret is on the opposite end of that spectrum, crying over lost books and breaking the law to protect these objects that she considers to be of very high importance.

I think it is interesting, too, that Edward wavers in his dedication to both, showing that there is a lot of room between to black and white views of Margaret and Zeph for one to find appreciation and lack of understanding for these media forms. At one point in the book, he lost his interest for hunting for the Gervase book, only to find interest once again, while at another point he lost interest in MOMUS, calling it “lame” and saying that it “doesn’t even make sense anymore”(p. 168).

As technology advances through the ages, it becomes more and more difficult to comprehend anything just having an original. It has become so easy to copy and mass produce any product out there with manufacturers or through copying online. There are so few things that only have a single copy these days. A book can be copied a million times and still cost $19.99 to buy. If it is a piece of artwork, it is understood why the original copy is valued so much but the copies could still be costly. The Bible has a lot of value to it and so many copies but it is still sold for a price. Just imagine what it would be like if there was only one copy of religious books such as the Bible. Why can’t the Codex just be copied? Does having only one copy of a book raise its worth? Will it become less common for things such as books to only have a single copy as time moves forward? It has become easy to print paper and create books for anyone but also it is easier to just have the book on the computer and spread through the internet. If the Codex was copied and posted on the internet would it be less valued? The Codex is something legendary but it may be hard to believe that this book is the only one that has the information it holds; nothing else has the knowledge the Codex has. Information is just so easily accessed now that thinking this book has nothing even remotely similar.

 

 

In the Codex, Edward at one point enters MOMUS for the first time, and his experience is of one that any new gamer would most likely have in such an open world. Not necessarily the dying part though. What he, for a brief period of time, experienced was his entering a new world. Similar to traveling to a new place, you begin to see sites you’re not used to due to being somewhere you haven’t been. This can be shown by just how much detail is put into everything seen around him. Despite it seeming like just an area with a river and some things you would see in the real world, the author takes their time in describing everything Edward is seeing, and that’s because it’s still somewhere entirely new, whether or not the objects seen have already been seen by the player before.

I would compare this to Chain World due to you entering a new world here as well. Even if you’ve played a lot of minecraft, the world is still new to you. In class we went over the idea of a “legend” and that we see the relics of the past in Chain World, however this example is one that can be done with any new game or person who is new to games. Once they enter a new world, the player usually feels obligated to “explore” or “test out” the new world they’ve entered into. It becomes a thing of curiosity. However, I only feel like this mainly with an open world, but what about games like Mario for instance where you’re in a 2D plane and can only go forward? This is something I’m not sure about.