If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd most populated country worldwide. The ubiquitous social networking site is the virtual home to over 800 million active users across the globe.
Before introducing you to the concept of “archive fever”, it is crucial to understand what an “archive” is. An archive is any method of storing and organising data and information so that it can be accessed at a later date.
‘Archive fever’, a term coined by French theorist Jacques Derrida, refers to our ‘repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement’ (Derrida 1996, pg. 91).
Based on Derrida’s definition of “archive fever”, I believe he is referring to the human desire to create a collection of memories (archives), which are a permanent record that document each and every experience in our lives, so that we can easily remember and reminisce.
I believe the rapid development of the digital world, particularly social media, has prompted an epidemic of archive fever.
“By providing us with new ways to share what we’re doing right now, the real-time web also captures something we might not have created otherwise: a permanent record of the event.” (Ogle 2010)
Let’s take a look at Facebook timeline…
As the name suggests, the new profile page design compiles a timeline of your entire life, showcasing information about yourself and your friends on a single page that can be scrolled back years or months at a time, meaning anyone can catch a glimpse into your social networking past all the way back to the day you joined Facebook. As soon as an photo, status or event is posted on Facebook, it is immediately archived. This opens up the information stored on Facebook to users, enabling data to be even more easily accessed.
Not only has Facebook created an environment for us to connect with others, but with the introduction of Facebook Timeline, it has enabled us to connect with ourselves.
Derrida (1996) explains that while the archive seems to focus on the past, it “should call into question the coming of the future.” He states, “it is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come” (p. 36).
Derrida, Jacques (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression Chicago:University of Chicago Press
Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian-impression-by.html>
Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’, mattogle.com, December 16, <http://mattogle.com/archivefever/>