Project (2010-2012)

Machines of Memory. The Archival Technologies and the Genealogy of Datapower (17th- 20th Century)

Archives are apparatuses of socialized memory, organizational tools of memorizing and remembering. The aim of this project is to study the history of their machinery, to consider them as operating systems, in their very functioning.

Archiving technologies have encountered an unprecedented global extension today. The hypothesis is that we are experiencing the deployment of an archival kind of power—a “datapower"—that operates through the recording, storing and retrieving of data, on a gigantic and ubiquitous scale. The goal of this working group would be to draw the link between the history of techniques of archiving and the formation of new ways of managing men, animals, and things - to sketch a genealogy of datapower by means of its technological history.

The scope of this project encompasses diverse archiving technologies—including the history of the card-filing systems or traceability devices in heterogeneous fields of practices, from the archives of cattle management to the use of archiving devices within the arts of governance. A machinery is not only a concrete system of material apparatuses but also a whole set of social relationships, rationalities and desires, that embraces the technical devices.

Its main focus is on the modern era, from the “archive fever” of the seventeenth century to the beginning of computer science. Each contribution should focus on the link between a given archiving technology and the forms of power relations in which it has been used.