The Noise in the Archive: Oblivion in the Age of Total Recall

  • Jean-François BlanchetteEmail author


The convergence of pervasive forms of data collection, widespread deployment of cheap digital sensors, and economics of infinite storage is apparently leading us into an age of perfect remembering where “everyone is on the record all the time.” This paper investigates the figure of a future bereft of oblivion by confronting two widely discussed statements on the changing condition of memory, Gordon Bell’s Total Recall, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s Delete. I argue that in spite of their antagonistic conclusions, both authors share an intellectual commitment to the unique historical status of digital information as immaterial, and thus, impervious to the noise, decay, and distortion that analogue carriers have previously brought to the task of preserving memory. I conclude that whatever the future of the past may be, digital information cannot, in fact, escape its material foundations, and will inevitably bring to the table its own particular sets of possibilities and constraints to the business of remembering and oblivion.


Personal Information Digital Medium Digital Information Digital Archive Retention Period 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information Studies, UCLALos AngelesUS

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