Presenting, unravelling, dredging

Last week I presented some of my research as part of the Digital Arts and Humanities research  colloquium at UCC. This work was loosely based on my “Unstable materials” series of blog posts (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are linked here, and an outline of the presentation is uploaded here).

I ran out of preparation time when trying to unravel some of the themes/ideas that I was trying to pack into the presentation. Questions afterwards, and just a little bit of extra time to think/digest has allowed me to identify some places where I could have been clearer. My intention is to eventually create a free-flowing river of thought and ideas….the beginning worked pretty well but it merged into a muddy delta towards the end (and it needs to be dredged).

The beginnings

  1. Oral history – made up of unstable materials like memory
  2. Memory – perceived as fallible (not reliable) – not pure but contingent, about the past AND the present
  3. Memories change because individuals change, and society changes
  4. Collective memory frames individual memory (Halbwachs)
  5. Portelli’s example of a “wrong” tale as a demonstration of how these give insight about real meaning, not just facts
  6. Oral histories, the stories contemporaries tell each other, collective or communicative memory
  7. Floating gap in oral societies
  8. Also potentially a floating gap in literate societies (communicative v cultural memory)
  9. If oral histories are communicative memory, what happens when they are recorded, collected and become part of an archive?
  10. “Canon” and “Archive” contrasts active and passive cultural memory and the boundary between these is dynamic

Here the flow begins to break down. I started to talk about archives, and community archives. I think instead that I should have talked about my digital projects as attempts to renegotiate meaning(s) from material within the archive, trying to create “canon” from “archive”.

My other insight is that I tackled the wrong end of digital preservation –  I talked of data storage preservation and bit rot, I should have talked of digital as a means of long term preservation for the archive and the organisation (actually not “digital preservation”). Promotion – being seen as active and having value – is an important part of ensuring sustainability.

I also think that there is a way of talking about materiality within the digital that could link to many of the things that I was talking about, and exploring the aspect of materiality is the route that I am persevering with now….