The Archive as Dumpster

  • Mél Hogan Illinois Institute of Technology


In four exploratory theoretical gestures (appraise, dispose, hoard and mediate), I propose the ‘archive as dumpster’ as a framework for returning to the physical conditions of memory, where “picking through the trash” subverts traditional archival methodologies by insisting on the very material consequences of a culture inculcated in networked digital communications. I make an argument that by posing the archive as a mediatic question (Parikka 2013), we can begin to account for the ways in which the perceived immateriality and weightlessness of our data is in fact with immense humanistic, environmental, political, and ethical repercussions. It is also a means by which we come to understand who we are, looking forward. In both cases, pitting the archive’s orderly ambitions against the dumpster’s stinking mess reveals a ‘call of things’ (Bennett 2011); the slow and often distanced process of disposal and waste to remind us who we are, in and over time, in and out of our bodies, increasingly under the impression of a dematerialised engagement with our stuff.

Author Biography

Mél Hogan, Illinois Institute of Technology
Assistant Prof. of Communication


Anderson, Jane. “(Colonial) Archives and (Copyright) Law.” Nomorepotlucks 4.1. July 2010. Web. 11 May 2015.

Appadurai, Arjun. “Archive and Aspiration.” Information Is Alive: Art and Theory of Archiving and Retrieving Data. Eds. Joke Brouwer and Arjen Mulder. Rotterdam: V2_Publishing/NAI Publishers, 2003. 14–25. Print.

Arondekar, Anjali. “Without a Trace: Sexuality and the Colonial Archive.” Journal of the History of Sexuality. 14.1–2 (2005): 10– 27. Print. DOI:

Bennett, Jane. “Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter | The New School.” YouTube. 13 September 2011. Web. 11 May 2015.

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke UP, 2010. Print. DOI:

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke UP, 2011. Print. DOI:

Brand, Stewart. “Escaping The Digital Dark Age.” Library Journal 124.2 (2003): 46–49. Print.

Burton, Antoinette M. Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History. Durham: Duke UP, 2006. Print.

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. “The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2008): 148–171. Print. DOI:

Cohen, Daniel, and Roy Rosenzweig. Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. Pennsylvania: U of Pennsylvania P, 2005. Web. 11 May 2015.

Cox, Richard J. Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations. Los Angeles: Litwin Books LLC, 2009. Print.

Currie, Morgan. “Towards a Radical Archive: De Balie’s Eric Kluitenberg.” Interview. Institute of Network Cultures. Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, 9 September 2010. Web. 18 June 2015.

Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996. Print.

Eichhorn, Kate. “Archival Genres: Gathering Texts and Reading Spaces.” Invisible Culture 12 (May 2008): 1–10. Print.

Ernst, Wolfgang. “Dis/continuities: Does the Archive Become Metaphorical in Multi-Media Space.” New media, Old media: A History and Theory Reader. Eds. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Thomas Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2006. 105–123. Print.

Arlette, Farge. Le Gout de L'archive. Paris: Seuil, 1989. Print.

Featherstone, Mike. “Archive.” Theory, Culture & Society 23. 2–3 (2006): 591–596. Print. DOI:

Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Print.

Gitelman, Lisa. Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture. Cambridge: MIT P, 2006. Print. DOI:

Haraway, Donna J. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007. Print.

Hogan, Mél. “Facebook Data Storage Centers as the Archive’s Underbelly.” Television New Media 16 (2015). Print. DOI:

Hui, Yuk. “Archivist Manifesto.” Mute. 22 May 2013. Web. 11 May 2015.

Koman, Richard. “How the Wayback Machine Works.” O’Reilly Network. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 21 January 2002. Web. 11 May 2015.

LeBel, Sabine. “Wasting the Future: The Technological Sublime, Communications Technologies, and E-waste.” Communication +1 1 (2012). Web. 11 May 2015.

Lovink, Geert. “ Interview with German media archeologist Wolfgang Ernst.” 26 February, 2003. Web. 11 May 2015.

Manoff, Marlene. “Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines.” Libraries and the Academy 4.1 (January 2004): 9– 25. Print. DOI:

Mieszkowski, Katharine. “Dumpster Diving on the Web.” Salon 2. Associated Press, November 2, 2001. Web. 11 May 2015.

Morra, Linda. Unarrested Archives: Case-Studies in Twentieth-Century Canadian Women’s Authorship. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2014. Print. DOI:

Parikka, Jussi and Garnet Hertz. “Archaeologies of Media Art: Resetting Theory.” CTheory 1 April 2010. Web. 11 May 2015.

Parikka, Jussi. “Archive Dynamics: Software Culture and Digital Heritage.” What is Media Archaeology? Cambridge: Polity, 2012. 113–135. Print.

Parikka, Jussi.“Operative Media Archaeology: Wolfgang Ernst’s Materialist Media Diagrammatics.” Theory, Culture & Society 28(5): 52–74. Print. DOI:

Parikka, Jussi. Symposium: “Save as: Social Memory.” YouTube. 2013. Web.

Parikka, Jussi. (ed) Medianatures: The Materiality of Information Technology and Electronic Waste. Open Humanities Press, 2011. Web. 11 May 2015.

Patel, Bhavesh. “Internet of Things: What Does it Mean for Data Centers.” Data Center Knowledge. iNET Interactive Network, 16 June 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.

Scanlan, John. On Garbage. London: Reaktion Books, 2005. Print.

Shilton, Katie and Ramesh Srinivasan. “Preserving Empowered Representations: Using Archival Principles to Maintain Context for Cultural Heritage Materials.” Archivaria 63 (Spring 2007): 87– 101. Print.

Sofia, Zoe. “Container Technologies.” Hypatia 15.2 (2000): 181–201. Print. DOI:

Spivak, Gayatri. “Women in Difference: Mahasweta Devi’s ‘Douloti the Bountiful.’” Nationalisms and Sexualities. Eds. Andre Parker et al. London: Routledge, 1992. 96–116. Print.

Steedman, Carolyn. Dust: The Archive and Cultural History. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2002. Print.

Sterling, Bruce. “Digital Decay.” Preserving the Immaterial: A Conference on Variable Media at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Spack, 30 March 2001. Web. 11 May 2015.

Stoler, Ann Laura. Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton UP, 2010. Print.

Stoler, Ann Laura. “Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance.” Archival Science 2.1–2 (2002): 87–109. Print. DOI:

Takahashi, Tess L. “An Archive for the Future: The Imaginary Archive: Current Practice.” Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 22.3 66 (2007): 179–184. Print. DOI:

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke UP, 2003. Print. DOI:

Vogt-O'Connor, Diane. “Is the Record of the 20th Century at Risk?” Cultural Resources Management 22.2 (1999): 21–24. Print.