[-empyre-] the library of babel

Claudia Costa Pederson ccp9 at cornell.edu
Sun Jun 14 14:10:45 EST 2009

2 things on my mind on participatory art and the archival trace. First,
back at Cornell this week we were unexpectenly reminded that the archive
is becoming a matter subject to the reigning outsourcing mania. Our
library searches are now (without any warning to so called 'users')
processed by WorldCat.com, which means that foremost--it takes a long time
to upload the page for the material that one is looking for to appear,
simply because of the size of the file that now looks almost identical to
the layout of amazon.org (you the library patron can even click on the BUY
bottom provided so as the helpful library staff explained enables you to
buy the book in case the libraries do not own it, uh?). A side effect of
all this push toward 'efficiency' is not only the fact that the interface
is mystifying, but also that the information gathered by one's searches
may be... well sold to third parties by WorldCat.org
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldCat]' an organization that in
partnership with Yahoo and Google seems to be more interested in selling
the traces of archival searches than to actually facilitate as promised
access to the "world's largest bibliographic database."

Though I know that the university has indeed never been known as a
progressive force (with maybe the exception of the late sixties), I also
do not want to promote anti-intellectualism (of which there is plenty, at
least in the U.S.) by stating that this is just another expression of the
academic-industrial complex. At the same time I am struck at the
abnoxiouness of the growing corporatization of the university (here for
all to experience on the library website) and the readiness on the part of
librarians (at least the employer responding to concerns of students) to
waive such concerns on grounds of 'convenience' (you might want to buy
that book you are looking for...).


All that this accomplish is the reinvigoration of counter-projects that
can be classified as participatory recompilations of the archives, but
without traces. These archives indeed exist behind unsuspecting names
alongside others that are readely recognizable as pirate sides voluntering
legal persecution. But because of the vastness of the internet, access to
un-traceble archives is of course dependent on one's knowledge of their
existence. The advantage is a decent searchable database that offer
others' contributions, rather than recommendations and an invitation to
partake, rather than to buy. Concealed net.art thus and as a bonus a
suggestive invitation to further exploit the contradictions of
post-industrial libertarian free market belief systems, to boot.

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