Digging into the Cassava Tuber: Archiving Social Memory in Cyberspace as Social Digital Archaeology

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  • Digging into the Cassava Tuber: Archiving Social Memory in Cyberspace as Social Digital Archaeology

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Abstract:

  • This paper suggests a social digital archeological approach in digital archiving of social memory as cultural mapping of computer culture. Social digital archeology is understood as the use of digital media and digital information to acquire a clearer picture of the society that uses them. This approach was developed in the project Operation Cassava at the Media Art Living Laboratory (MALL), at Multimedia University, Malaysia.

    In the project, the authors outline a vision of an online archive that enables storage and access of data in the form of images, sounds and texts related to the cassava plant for its rich cultural history. The authors look at the social and cultural significance of cassava and collect stories and memories related to the evolution of the plant through its migratory process, drawing parallel between diasporas and the dispersal of meaning over the internet. The goal of Operation Cassava is twofold: first, to create cultural narratives corresponding to the living condition of a cassava plant. The second part of the project is the archiving of the social memories related to the plant in an online repository. The digital archiving strategy contributing to these goals will be discussed. Operation Cassava is deployed as a participatory     project that invites participants to contribute stories or memories related to cassava. A wiki‑based approach to crowdsource social memories emphasizes the collaborative acts of individuals. Working through this approach, many peculiar stories related to the subject matter have been collected. The resulted online museum is a public repository that archives social memories on cassava, capitalizing on the networked social space. Despite the digital archive being called a ‘museum’, the authors believe that database archive is different from institutionalized narrative of history by addressing the transformation of memory institutions as they shift from the paradigm of institutionalized memory to the information habitat (1). Following new media theorist Lev Manovich’s (2) analyses of database as a new symbolic form of the computer age, it is the aim of this paper to discuss Operation Cassava as one of this kind of cultural form supported by database. Whereupon then it is appropriate for the author to discuss poetics and aesthetics of the archive that is now being collectively built by the Operation Cassava participants. Essentially it might be possible for Operation Cassava to recast the cultural distinctiveness in the midst of the diversity of people and experiences as a positive integrative force in the sustenance of social identity.

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