Making Memories: Curation, Creation, and Digital Archives—#MoocMooc Day 5 Activity

Photo copyright future15 @ Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

Today’s project—making a Storify story that reflects what you’ve learned so far in MoocMooc—got me thinking about one of my research interests: archives.

The Storify stories that participants created were an exercise in curation, a major focus of our Twitter conversations:

Curation gets at the heart of one of the issues that’s been bouncing around the #moocmooc discussion all week: to what degree should MOOC learners be consuming pre-existent knowledge and to what degree should they be producing it? Collection and curation practices inhabit a liminal space between reading and writing, consumption and production. (For more on this, see Jeremy Braddock’s recent book on modernist collecting practices). As such, they seem to provide a way out of binary models of “instructivist” versus “constructivist” pedagogies.

The tendency (if not compulsion towards) curation in new media environments reflects, I think, a lot of our anxiety about the nature of digital data: it feels both too massive and too fragile. While Michael Kirschenbaum’s work on inscription in new media dispels a too-naïve view of digital data as purely “ephemeral,” his work also demonstrates that this data (and its physical inscription on storage devices) often exists as a trace, under erasure, rather than as an accessible whole. Our desire, in MoocMooc, to construct some coherent archive of the traces of the course—otherwise destined for a (half)erasure based more on forgetting than on deletion—seeks to return these fragments to the “whole” MoocMooc from whence they sprung. But, of course, no such whole ever existed and what sense we have of it is a retroactive effect of its archivization. (Derrida says it best: “archivization produces as much as it records the event.”)

It’s been interesting to watch varied #moocmooc curation projects unfold. I’ve even headed a couple of these myself. I think it would be great to take the meta-MOOC mentality to an even more meta level through a post-MOOC collaboratively curated Wiki that would produce the “course” as much as it documented it. Not that it would ever be finished, of course. (I defer to Archive Fever once more “The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.”)

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