My new chapter on the digitalisation of the archive

Some cyber-optimists see the digitalisation of the archive as offering an endless abundance of cultural goods available to all. However this chapter takes a more gloomy view, arguing that the digitalised archive can in fact contribute in many ways to the disorientation and distraction of contemporary persons, rendering the process of ‘shaping a life’ more challenging than ever. Two often co-occurrent mechanisms are identified which generate this propensity towards distraction: the curatorial imperative and the algorithmic imperative. Through an analysis of their operation, profoundly conditioning the digital landscape within which ever increase tracts of social life are played out, this chapters maps the changing relation between personal reflexivity, collective agency and the cultural system under digital capitalism.

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