Friday, November 12, 2010

Foucault and Archaeology of Knowledge

Michel Foucault envisioned discourse as an artifact that could be dug up and examined, as from a particular period and place, a methodology of sorts that he called "Archaeology of Knowledge." From that, per James Herrick, he could determine what kinds of information could be known -- and said -- as "a matter of the social, historical and political conditions under which, for example, statements come to count as true or false."
Reading that recently inspired me to look again at the 2003 piece "Narrative Archeology" by Jeremy Hight, related to an emerging element of modern discourse: geolocation. Or, in other words, when a piece of discourse becomes directly connected to a place through a mobile device. That technological development seems to strengthen the Foucault metaphor, as Hight writes that "A city is a collection of data and sub-text to be read in the context of ethnography, history, semiotics, architectural patterns and forms, physical form and rhythm, juxtaposition, city planning, land usage shifts and other ways of interpretation and analysis. The city patterns can be equated to the patterns within literature: repetition, sub-text shift, metaphor, cumulative resonances, emergence of layers, decay and growth. A city is constructed in layers: infrastructure, streets, population, buildings. The same is true of the city in time: in shifts in decay and gentrification; in layers of differing architecture in form and layout resonating certain eras and modes in design, material, use of space and theory; in urban planning; in the physical juxtaposition of points and pointers from different times. Context and sub-text can be formulated as much in what is present and in juxtaposition as in what one learns was there and remains in faint traces (old signs barely visible on brick facades from businesses and neighborhood land usage long gone or worn splintering wooden posts jutting up from a railroad infrastructure decades dormant for example) or in what is no longer physically present at all and only is visible in recollection of the past." Digital historical interpretation that brings the past back to the present, flattens spacetime and allows history to be read fresh therefore seems to be an emerging extension of Foucault's ideas, worth juxtaposing.

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