Archive Project

Future for the Annotation of Digital Objects

Organizer: Dr. Yuk Hui, Simon Worthington, Hybrid Publishing Lab, Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Participants: Bob Stein (Institute for the Future of the Book, SocialBook), Christina Kral (A-machine), Claudius Teodorescu (University of Heidelberg), Andre Gaul + Nico (PaperHive), Thomas Kollatz (DARIAH), Paul-Emile Greffroy (IRI of Centre Pompidou), Johannes Wilm (Fidus Writer)

Date: 12th May (midday) – 13th May (evening)

Venue: Cent­re for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res, Sülz­tor­str. 21–35, 21335 Lüne­burg, 2. Floor

In the past decades, the proliferation of digital objects, the emergence of new technologies, and the globalisation of cultural objects, demand new conceptualisations and practices of annotation. Ontologies (formal ontologies, web ontologies) find their limits to fully contextualize the modes of existence of digital objects, since most of them are still derived from a narrow reflection and without considering the nature of the digital. Annotation finds its place, not only in the sense of assisting information processing and enhancing the searchability of digital objects (for the objects themselves, or in the objects), but also as interaction and concretisation of relations between the users and the objects with which they interact. This recalls us of what the ancient call Scholia, a commentary and annotation practice which finally shaped the scholiast and also the scholar. Annotation in this sense is less about classification, but closely related to learning, meaning that one learns and concretizes his or her knowledge through annotating or writing. With digital technologies, the concept of annotation has to be taken further, since it introduces semantic technologies, collaboration, sharing, recommendation. However annotation is either not taken seriously or shadowed by mere interaction, or slowly taken over by automation as in the case of Google and other semantic technologies. The workshop “Future for the annotation of digital objects”, hosted by the Hybrid Publishing Lab is an attempt to gather researchers from different disciplines, and to look into different practices and tools that have been developed and concerns which have yet to be resolved.

This two days workshop is an occasion to discuss further collaborations among researchers. We will invite international researchers who are working in the field to participate in this workshop, to map the current state of affairs and to look at different approaches to annotation of digital objects. The second aim of the workshop will be to discuss the challenges ahead and to figure out an agenda for development and for collaboration.


Noon – 19H, 12th May

Presentation of individual projects (20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion)
13:15 Introduction: Yuk Hui + Simon Worthington
13:45 -14:15 Simon Worthington + Christina Kral (A-machine)
14:15 -14:45 Claudius Teodorescu (Heidelberg)
14:45 – 15:15 Andre Gaul + Nico (PaperHive)

15:15 – 15:45 Coffee Break

15:45 – 16:15 Thomas Kollatz (DARIAH)
16:15 – 16:45 Paul-Emile Greffroy (IRI of Centre Pompidou)
16:45 – 17:15 Johannes Wilm (Fidus Writer)
Coffee Break 15 Minutes
17:30 – 18:30 Questions and Challenges
19:00 Dinner

10H – 17H, 13th May
10:00 – 11:00 Retake on Questions and Challenges from the last day
11:00 – 12:30 Bob Stein Lecture
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch
13:30 – 16:30 Addressing Problems, Challenges, Collaborations

Inquiries: Dr. Yuk HUI, yuk.hui[a] Simon Worthington, simon[a]
Download Program and Abstracts

How much shall we trust the cloud? And then the question is: whose cloud shall one trust? Now given 10 clouds including Google, while 9 of them you haven’t heard of, which one will you choose? I guess most of the people will choose Google, but then as this article on “Cloud … But Only The Google Cloud” showed that Google can easily capture all your data in the name of the protection of personal data and privacy. The choice seems quite obvious that we should empower individuals and groups to create their own personal archives.

Yuk Hui from Hybrid Publishing Lab will give a talk in the colloquium Compromised Data? New Paradigms in Social Media Theory and Methods, at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada (28-29 October, 2013). The talk entitled Contribution to a Political Economy of Self-Archiving, refers to a self-archiving project launched in HybridPublishing Lab that aims to reconsider the question of archiving and storing in the digital age. It will talk about one of the theoretical concepts of the archive project: starting from an interpretation of Canguillhem’s The Living and its Milieu and reconsider the contribution of Simondon’s associated milieu and Heidegger’s care. Below is the abstract:

We are producing and reproducing more and more digital objects and data in an increasing speed, in response there are more and more cloud computing service providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook and other social media giving users storages of files and data. This paper wants to discuss the problem generated in this stage of digitization, namely that we are losing the ability to archive objects and give control to the clouds. The departure of this article underlies a difference between storing and archiving. Storing is simply putting things on the hard disk drive with certain kinds of index; while possessing more and more objects, we start forgetting what one has, and we tend to download the same objects several times and risk not being able to locate objects one is looking for. The huge storage services seem to produce an illusion that everything can be remembered, but in fact they produce conditions of total forgetting. In contrast, archiving is a practice of creating contexts indicating the relevance between objects and users. To archive is to select, that implies remembering and forgetting. These contexts in turn constitute the milieu of the livings, in the sense as Georges Canguilhem described in The Living and its Milieu[1]. By creating and maintaining these milieux, we learn to orient and to live – “a median situation, a fluid of suspension, a life environment.” Canguilhem borrowed the example of Jakob von Uexküll’s blind ticks, by sensing the smell, the warmth and other elements that constitute the milieu, they know when to fall down from a tree to the back of animals passing by.

Gilbert Simondon has extended the concept of milieu to understand relation between human and machine and underlies a politics between the two, since after all, human beings are not ticks, we live in milieux which become more and more artificial and subject to engineering. Industrialisation constantly povertises our living milieux and generate new milieux that favourite economic exchanges and miseries. We observe that self-archiving tools are largely underdeveloped,while commercial social media such as Google, Facebook don’t provide us with tools to archive but only to store. At the same time, ironically they are constantly archiving our contextual information, e.g. our habits, meetings, participation in events, for marketing uses. This relation between the living and the digital milieu has to be re-accessed and politicised under current situation of industrialisation. For Simondon, before industrialisation, man – the bearer of tools are technical individuals that maintain a stable associated milieu for themselves; while industrialisation destroyed this setting and inversely rendered human workers the associated milieu of machines in the factories. For Simondon, this destruction of milieu is one of the major causes of alienation and proletarianization[2].

What could be further developed from Simondon’s theory is that it also destroys the structure of care by replacing it with economic exchanges. It seems urgent today to address the problem of the milieu under the current technological condition by reconceptualising practices of self-archiving and retackling the question of care in related to digital objects and metadata. By care I refers to three different notions here: Foucault’s proposal to return the care of the self (le souci) as a technic of subjectivation; Heidegger’s care (die Sorge) as a temporal structure; Bernard Stiegler’s proposal of taking care (prendre soin). Hence self-archiving is not only a question of autonomy, but also a possibility to consider new perspectives of deproletarianisation. Within an agenda of self-archiving, we can also re-imagine the question of personalisation and share that have been dominated by social media, for example, what kind of personalisation can be developed through the practice of self-care rather being determined largely by the social milieu? can we imagine new forms of share, for example offline portable digital libraries that are shared among local communities? The question of self-archiving is both a call for technological development, and a call for a politics of archives after Michel Foucault. This paper ends by exposing the current self-archiving tool we are working on and calling for future collaborations.

[1]G. Canguilhem, The Living and Its Milieu, Grey Room, No. 3 (Spring, 2001), pp. 6-31

[2]G. Simondon, Du Mode d’Existence des objects techniques, Aubier, 1958, 2012


from rick's insightful presentation during 'economy of the commons', amsterdam 2008

from rick’s insightful presentation during ‘economy of the commons’, amsterdam 2008

Watch the presentation here.

De Balie just released Rick Prelinger’s contribution to the 2008 conference of Economy of the Commons. In his talk, Rick (Prelinger Archive/Prelinger Library and Internet Archive) outlines the evolution and importance of institutional archives in the past and turns to the present and future to question “what will enable archives to survive in a confused media and cultural landscape.”

Archives by tradition predominantly preserve and conceal rather than reveal. And according to him this needs to change and is changing. Public libraries which have an “ethic of access and a tradition of openness” are a good source of inspiration. Besides, more and more people are creating their own personal archives. This trend puts new demands on traditional institutions. “Don’t wait for people to come to the archive!” New archives (contemporary ones) go where the people are.

In order to keep the meticulously assembled and treasured collections in archives alive, the archive will need to open up – at least to some degree – and reach out to the public to invite involvement and usage. He advocates for both: to invest in preservation and digitization. The latter to make the material vastly accessible to the general public. Touch is essential: the ability to engage with digital objects in a profound and unconditional manner. Culture is preserved by being used and interwoven with contemporary developments, thinking and desire.

Talking for profit.
Rick introduces his two tier system of free and fee based access to his archival material. In fact he describes a dynamic publishing or dynamic access model. For free you get the whole chunk—an entire pdf or movie. If you pay, you get a contract, security, and the material delivered in high-res quality and its components (the elements the original material is made of). This is especially interesting for re-use, partial use and experimental application. “Segmentation adds considerable value,” he says.

Talking private collection: The Prelinger Library.
A community has built around his collection, the Prelinger Library in San Francisco. A physical space where its members can engage with the material. Rick calls it a procreation friendly environment, where the members (and anyone can become one, really) extract, copy, remix, create, distribute and share. Interventions are the norm: readings, social collecting, home movie day, etc. They also host small residencies where scholars and artists can work with the collection and integrate it in their work. Every Wednesday the collection opens to everyone. This regular time-space window allowed for the community to form naturally.

A few side notes.
The entire contribution on Sustainable Images for the Future (a part of Economy of the Commons) might provide interesting entry points – even from the perspective of 2008. Presenters were (among many) Kenneth Goldsmith (ubuweb), Rick Prelinger, Images for the Future, Filmmuseum Amsterdam, etc. For the latest economy of the commons visit here:

The dossier on De Balie’s archiving initiative can be found here:

During the conference (the one in 2008) I first learned about Images For The Future, an ambitious project, run by four Dutch organizations to preserve, restore, digitize and provide a vast amount of audiovisual heritage of the Netherlands to its citizens. Their claim: “The digitized material will be made available to education and to the public as broadly as possible.” Back then, they were considering business models that would make the archiving process self-sustainable (e.g. view/listen on demand) and the hope was, by providing material relevant to the Dutch the material would be activated and integrated and gain and sustain interest to the general public.