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Archiving Learning as a Messy, Partial, and Political Process

Shannon Mattern The New School @shannonmattern

Otlet’s Mundaneum

Via Buffalo State

Via D-Lib

Via Experimental Jetset

Via Garnet Hertz

Via The Hairpin

Tumblr exploring the chemical bases of media objects, both analog and digital

Exploring the life, death, and rebirth of the slide projector


1. What if we sought to archive artifacts of the learning process – including the drafts and detritus – rather than focusing primarily on “finished works,” which provide proof of “having learned”? What if we archived not only finished projects, but also studentgenerated data, component pieces, drafts, etc. – and what if this material was then made available for reuse and repurposing in other student and faculty projects?

2. What if we sought to archive artifacts of the learning process – including the drafts and detritus – What if students could post their research and production material to a university archive and indicate, Creative Commons style, if – and if so, how – they’re allow it to be used by others? 3. What if we linked our archives to fair use advocacy groups like Critical Commons, which supports the “transformative reuse of media in scholarly and creative contexts” – and extended that advocacy to incorporate other copyrighted cultural forms?

4. What would it mean to embrace the basic principles of Alan Liu’s RoSE (researchoriented social environment) project and to “treat individual works of media as proto or micro networks” – networks of people, of texts, of learning practices, etc. – and then to trace the “macro-networks” that emerge from these micro-networks? How might this allow us to use the archive to map research communities and collaborations and shared resources?

5. What if we allowed students to “opt-in” to archive their final course projects, which would then obligate them to format their work according to specified criteria, but would also ensure that their work would be preserved by the university? And what if instructors could then generate a list of all officially-archived course projects, which they could then format into a summary document or “exhibition” of student work.

6. [Disingenuously phrased as a “what if ”] What if we also recognized the right of students to opt out of the archive – to allow their work to remain private, un-networked; to destroy their work or to allow it simply to fade away? What if we honored the value of erasure and forgetting?