Hello all, my name is Jordan Watkins and I am currently studying for an MA in English Literature at Cardiff University. My research interests are focused primarily on ecocriticism (specifically Waste Studies), the later writings of French Marxist Louis Althusser and psychoanalytic theory.
My project aims to explore the relationship between waste and the
internet by forming an exhibition of abandoned websites, blogs, and forums. By treating these digital relics as material artifacts, I hope to convey how the proliferation of information on the internet can transform language into waste, that is, how texts (such as blog posts) can become forgotten, inert or obsolete.
With the advent of Web 2.0, our engagement with the internet has become increasingly frenetic. Today, thousands upon thousands of tweets, Instagram uploads, and Google searches are produced with every passing second. Our email inboxes are overflowing, we are awash in Facebook notifications. But far away from the hustle and bustle of social media – hidden away in the deep recesses of the internet – there lies a digital wasteland.
Visiting forums that have been long neglected can feel uncanny. And scrolling through the conversations of communities that once thrived is like walking through a ghost town. Many blogs remain in a strange form of suspended animation, with promises of further updates that never arrived. Yet, these texts still signify, they offer meaning that has become sedimented under the rapid mass production of information.
My project seeks to excavate these buried texts. I shall attempt to trace the cultural development of the internet by rummaging through the waste it has cast off.
In The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin outlined an analytical framework that would perform a rescue of history: a process whereby ‘waste materials’ were to ‘enter into significant connections and fragments are used to gain a new perspective on history’. For Benjamin, this rescue was to be completed by the ragpicker of history, one who collects the refuse of past cultures in order to access their historical moment.
With my exhibition, I will take cues from Benjamin’s method, acting as a ragpicker of the digital age so that ‘a new perspective’ may be formed on the history of the internet.
Hopefully, if my exhibition is successful, like Benjamin, ‘I needn’t say anything. Merely show’.
Michael Schwarz, ‘Rag Picking: The Arcades Project’ in Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs, trans. Esther Leslie, ed. Ursula Marx, Gudrun Schwarz, Michael Schwarz and Erdmut Wizisla (London and New York: Verso, 2007), p.252-3.
Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Einland and Kevin McLaughlin, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1999), 460.