A general observations from these last few weeks: I’ve realised my own diógenes digital-type tendencies tend to come to the fore in the act of doing research, something I’m noticing more as I start to think in general about how we accumulate digital ‘stuff’. I’m very good at discovering and hoarding interesting references and resources creating intricate systems of filing them away – then never using them for anything nor discarding them. I suspect this isn’t a particularly unique tendency among beginning PhD students, but it creates an interesting tension with my topic, which could be the seed of some sort of interesting autoethnographic project? So far in the last month or so I’ve collected introductions to archival theory, some references on this history of rubbish in art, some seminal works on autoethnography, a load of articles from Real Life magazine about the way death is dealt with online (I was trying to track down one in particular I remembered reading to share with Jaron, and got slightly distracted), Papers mentioning ‘diogenes syndrome’ or ‘hoarding’ in the digital realm, and papers in related fields who mention the Archive Team (based on my earlier thought about surveying dead websites – about this last one, more soon).
The interesting thing about this for me isn’t just that i’m an inveterate hoarder and serial starter-of-things-left-unfinished, but that I definitely feel the weight of this accumulation, in at least two different senses: Firstly, each resource I save for later is an intention unfulfilled, and the accumulation of them is kinda paralysing – both in terms of the ‘choice paralysis’ of choosing an avenue to investigate and the feeling of guilt of not having finished (or being able to finish) the work I’ve made for myself. Secondly, this seems like another example of the topic of an archive being defined by the negative space of what’s left out – as I keep adding these different tangents, it seems to progressively blur my idea of what my thesis actually is, rather than helping clarify it.
So, it seems important that I forget some of these tangents, and commit to discarding them – however, how to know which to discard and which to keep, without exploring them first? Perhaps this could be a role for some sort of divinatory practice / ritual as a tool to contemplate the role / significance of different resources? It seems at least vaguely analogous to the role of divinatory practices such as tarot in my life in general – a way of drawing attention to possibilities worth exploring, rather than a concrete prediction of what’s valuable.