Thylstrup 2018

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Thylstrup, Nanna Bonde. The Politics of Mass Digitization. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2018.

Mass digitization has “become a defining concept of our time” (3)

“It is the promise of heightened access to—and better preservation of—the past, and of more original scholarship and better funding opportunities. It also prom- ises entirely new ways of reading, viewing, and structuring archives, new forms of value and their extraction, and new infrastructures of control. This volume argues that the shape-shifting quality of mass digitization, and its social dynamics, alters the politics of cultural memory institutions.” (3-4)

“It is pertinent to note that mass digitization suffers from the combined gendered and racialized reality of cultural institutions, tech corporations, and infrastructural projects: save a few exceptions, there is precious little diversity in the official map of mass digitization, even in those projects that emerge bottom-up.” (7-8)

“another central infrastructural dimension of mass digitization: its highly contin- gent spatio-temporal configurations that are often posed in direct con- tradistinction to the universalizing discourse of mass digitization.” (12)

“Mass digitization is a composite and fluctuating infrastructure of disci- plines, interests, and forces rooted in public-private assemblages, driven by ideas of value extraction and distribution, and supported by new forms of social organization.” (19-20)

“With the advent of mass digitization, machines have gained a whole new role in the cultural memory ecosystem, not only as managers, but also as interpreters. Thus, collections are increasingly digi- tized to be read by machines instead of humans, just as metadata is now becoming a question of machine analysis rather than of human contextu- alization.” (21)

Rise of “non-consumptive research”

Concept of “assemblage” helping us to understand mass digitization projects

Think about politics of mass digitization as “infrapobitics” (25) — infrastructure + politics, giving politics “a distinct organizational form”

“The infrastructures of mass digitization are thus media of polities and politics, at times visible and at others barely legible or felt, and home both to dissent as well as to standardizing measures. These include legal infra- structures such as copyright, privacy, and trade law; material infrastructures such as books, wires, scanners, screens, server parks, and shelving systems; disciplinary infrastructures such as metadata, knowledge organization, and standards; cultural infrastructures such as algorithms, searching, reading, and downloading; societal infrastructures such as the realms of the pub- lic and private, national and global.” (26)

“Hence the notion of “infra”: the infrapolitics of mass digitization hover at a frequency that lies below and beyond formal sovereign state apparatus, organized, as they are, around glocal—and often private or privatized— material and social infrastructures.” (27)
 Standardization serving network society