Watch the development of the case against Julian Assange very carefully. It’s pretty bizzare: sexual assault? espionage? Some are coming to his defense. As my friend Barbara says, one likely result of this drama will be greater restrictions on the way we are able to access, use and create various media archives. CBS News predicts a future of never-ending cyberwar. Never forget: sorting through these sorts of archives or databases is the political practice of our time, made even more so by sheer ubiquity. And the creation of digital archives themselves? What sort of politics is that?
One New Republic editorial questions Julian Assange’s/Wikileaks’ status as beacons of serious journalism, governmental transparency and democracy due to their commitment to collect data, without organization and argument. The article cites one of my fave media theorists, Lev Manovich:
The media theorist Lev Manovich has said that the definitive informational metaphor of our epoch is the database. The database is not just a metaphor, in fact—it’s a certification of what knowledge looks like and how it is to be gained. A metaphor is a carrier, a condensation of meaning. A database is a heap.
It is this “heap-ish” quality that makes databases like dumpsters. And I guess the creation of databases is kind of like garbage collection, except the goal isn’t disposal. There is no real possibility of (information) disposal as the existence of Wikileaks clearly proves. Does this mean that political action, and the creation of knowledge itself depends upon dumpster diving? Garbage collection and dumpster diving? Really?