Experimenting with the Archive: STS-ers As Analysts and Co-constructors of Databases and Other Archival Forms

Science, Technology, and Human Values 35 (5):645-676 (2010)
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Abstract

This article is about recent attempts by scholars, database practitioners, and curators to experiment in theoretically interesting ways with the conceptual design and the building of databases, archives, and other information systems. This article uses the term ‘‘archive’’ as an overarching category to include a diversity of technologies used to inventory objects and knowledge, to commit them to memory and for future use. The category of ‘‘archive’’ might include forms as diverse as the simple spreadsheet, the species inventory, the computerized database, and the museum. Using this protean concept, this study suggests that we are currently witnessing a time where close convergences are occurring between social theory and archive construction. It identifies a ‘‘move’’ toward exposure of the guts of our archives and databases, toward exposing the contingencies, the framing, the reflexivity, and the politics embedded within them. Within this move, the study examines ways in which theories of performance and emergence have begun to influence the way that archives of different kinds are conceived and reflects on the role of Science and Technology Studies scholars in their construction.

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