Archives + Algorithms Schedule

Submitting work

All work for each week is due by when you go to bed on Friday so that I have it early on Saturday morning. You are of course welcome to post your responses and reflections (if there is more than one thing due) any time during the week. Reading responses and weekly reflections must be posted (usually as a blog post) to your website. You’ll make separate pages for the other assignments. Keep in mind that our website aren’t just an alternative to Learn, but are an integral component of the course.

Week 1 (Jan 18–22): Introductions

There are a bunch of small set-up things to do for this week, but not much reading.

Set up your website (= archive) and about page

  • All the following steps, along with bit more explanation, are covered in a quick screencast if you prefer to just see them.
  • Go to and create an account (everything is free; you can opt out of all emails). Click the Get Started button in the middle of the page, then the Sign up link to enter your email address and set a password.
  • Once logged in, Click the Create New Site
  • You’ll be asked what kind of site you want to create—pick Blog.
  • CAREFUL: On the next page, click the Choose a Template button. DO NOT click the other one!
  • Pick a design that is a good starting point for you (simple is best)—we’ll customize it later. When you click on one of the images, it gives you a preview of the site layout and a button to Edit the site. If it looks good enough, click the Edit button. Or close the preview and pick a new layout.
  • After about 10 seconds, you’ll end up in the website editor. There’s a lot of options and stuff that we don’t need, but it will quickly become more familiar and easier to use.
  • Near the upper left corner of the page, you can change the page you are editing—select the About page on your site.
  • Edit the bio text to introduce yourself to the class—basic first-day info like major, hobbies, life goals, favorite foods — and WHY you ended up here and what you hope to get out of the class.
  • Click Save in the upper right corner.
  • Name your site whatever you like.
  • Click the Publish Now button to make sure your site is visible.
  • You don’t need to edit the mobile site at all, so just close the dialog box.
  • Copy the URL that it shows you (it should look like and post it to our class Google Doc of blog sites.

Introducing Archives

Just two short readings for this week as a jumping off point for your first short reading response.

  • Gabriella Giannchi, “A brief history of the archive” (Chapter 1 from Archive Everything), 1–15. Note the full article goes to p. 25, so don’t read the whole thing! This article can get into the weeds at times, so stay focused on the big picture in terms of a general history of the archive and how it’s changed over time.

  • Trevor Owens, What Do you Mean by Archive? Genres of Usage for Digital Preservers. Read the comments, too! They are (perhaps unusually so) quite a useful addition to the article itself.

Post your first reading response

  • Log into and select your site to edit it.
  • Click the pen icon on the left side of the screen.
  • Click Create a Post.
  • Add a Catchy title.
  • Using the Giannchi and Owens readings for this week (see above), write a standard reading response on what definition(s) of archive (from Owens) you think Giannchi is primarily interested in. How do the various definitions offered by Owens complicate Giannchi’s description? There is NO RIGHT ANSWER.
  • NOTE: This is just a warm-up blog post to make sure everything is working—so no pressure and no grading! But I am looking forward to your thoughts, and this is the kind of assignment you’ll be doing much of the semester–trying to combine two different readings for the week.
  • When you’re done, be sure to click Publish in the upper right corner.
  • Close the dialog box that pops up.
  • You’re done! Your site at this point will have all kinds of images and stuff that you don’t need or want. We’ll clean up our sites over the next few weeks, but if you want to start tidying now, go for it!

Week 2 (Jan 25–29): Archival Practice and Data Futures

This week we read an article that describes the relationship between historians and archivists—particularly how historians have regarded archival work uncritically and as providing an objective way of accessing the past. The other article describes how so many ways of sorting, organizing, and storing elements of culture (the exact work that archivists have done) have become automated processes.

  • Check out the Week 2 overview video, which gives an introduction to each article and some ideas for how to connect them in your weekly reflection this week.

  • Terry Cook, ‘The Archive(s) Is a Foreign Country: Historians, Archivists, and the Changing Archival Landscape’, The American Archivist 33 (2011): 600–632.

  • Ted Striphas, ‘Algorithmic Culture’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18.4–5 (2015): 395–412.

Week 3 (Feb 1–5): Power

This week we’re looking at the power of archives, which includes a whole range of meanings as we got a sample of last time. A quote at the end of the first article sums up the gist of point for the week to keep in mind while reading. Archival power means: Power over the documentary record, and by extension over the collective  memory of marginalized members of society – whether women, non-whites, gays and lesbians, children, the under-classes, prisoners, and the non-literate – and indeed over their representation and integration into the metanarratives of history.

Keep in mind, too, the parallels between societal data and archives and the power they yield. Of course power, whether through physical records, digital facsimiles, or data, is mediated through interfaces, whether a digital archive website or an algorithm that computes your SAT or GRE score.

For an overview of some key themes for the week, check out the Week 3 Overview Video.

  • Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, Records and Power: The Making of Modern Memory,” 1–19. This article is a little repetitive at times, but in a good way as it makes it easy to understand the main points. It is shorter than it looks in terms of page count because many pages are almost entirely footnotes (which you can peruse if you’re interested).
  • Margaret Hedstrom, “Archives, Memory, and Interfaces with the Past,” 21–43. This article overlaps a little with the other other, which doesn’t mention interfaces at all, and makes for a very productive complement. There is a section on memory pp. 27–32, that you can skim; it’s more productive for us to keep our focus on interfaces.

Week 4 (Feb 8–12): Silence

This week is an extension/elaboration on last week’s POWER theme. The Policing and Mass Incarceration Archive blog post is just for fun, as it perfectly embodies the kind of action/corrective that Carter is calling for in 2006. As I explain in the video, our main readings are an unusual but I hope provocative pair. A little bit less of an academic reflection for this week, as described below.

Week 5 (Feb 15–19): Classification

Building on the overlapping themes of power and silences, this week we look at how the act of classification (that’s been mentioned in almost every article so far) can both remove and in fact CREATE archival silences. We’re back to a regular weekly reflection this week.

  • Week 5 Overview video
  • Marisa Elena Duarte and Miranda Belarde-Lewis, “Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 53, no. 5–6 (July 4, 2015): 677–702. Focus on everything up through p.688; after that, skim the case studies and examples to think about how the theory discussed at the beginning of the article can be and is being put into practice in the real world.
  • Jennifer Guiliano and Carolyn Heitman, “Difficult Heritage and the Complexities of Indigenous Data,” Journal of Cultural Analytics (August 13, 2019).

Relevant but optional

  • Melissa Adler and Lindsey M. Harper, “Race and Ethnicity in Classification Systems: Teaching Knowledge Organization from a Social Justice Perspective”, Library Trends 67.1 (2018): 52–73.

Week 6 (Feb 22–26): Interface

As you are all acutely aware at this point: classification, access, and dissemination go hand in hand in hand (is that a thing?). Mediating all of these, as we’ve already seen in our week on archival power, are interfaces. The article we read that focused on interfaces (Hesdtrom) discussed them in generic, theoretical terms. I emphasized that we should think about interfaces on multiple levels. This week, we’re focusing on digital interfaces to archives and critiquing them according to the readings we’ve done in the course so far that suggest different ways in which archives shape identity, heritage, and history. How do digital interfaces to archives wield power?

Sample Digital Archive/History Projects

For your assignment this week, you can critique any of these. You’re also welcome to find something else or use something you already know about. If going off-list, make sure whatever site you choose is some kind of interface to an archive and allows you to address the questions in the assignment guide.

Civil War Washington, Slave Voyages + a striking visualization, Colored Conventions, Lynching America, Native Land, First Days Project, American Panorama, Georgetown Slavery Archive, The Early Caribbean Digital Archive, Black Women’s Suffrage, Design Reviewed, Australian Prints + Printmaking, South Asian American Digital Archive, DTA

Retro sites (an always incomplete list)

Valley of the Shadow, Virtual Jamestown, American Social Movements, Blue Ridge Parkway

Week 7 (March 1–5): Decolonial, post-custodial, community archives

This week we’re reading about new kinds of archives and archival approaches that in many respects are fundamental breaks from traditional practices. Quick terminology clarification for this week’s title (and terms you’ll see repeatedly in the articles):

  • Decolonial archives refer to archives that aspire to avoid (if new) or escape (if existing) the legacy of the colonial archive—namely having everything predominantly cataloged and classified according to a colonial power that uses the archive (sometimes purposefully but usually inadvertently) to subjugate other voices. After all our readings so far, motivations for these kinds of archives hardly need a long explanation here.
  • Post-custodial archives refer to archives that try to scan, photograph, or record cultural heritage objects/materials/events to preserve (and possible increase access to) them but never own or control the objects themselves. Even though we haven’t talked about the physicality of archives much, archives have been predicated on ownership and physical possession—and therefore control—of cultural artifacts and heritage. The idea that even a formal, institutional archive (like a University) could archive stuff without owning it has been almost a paradigm shift in archival practice. It may sound strange that this is such a revelation, but so much of archival training and practice is about the physical stewardship (storage, preservation, retrieval) of ‘stuff’ that to think archives would exist entirely digitally and only in surrogate form is a major shift in thinking about the very nature of archives themselves.
  • Community archives are a bit hard to generalize about because there are so many flavors. On the whole, they are usually small-ish digital archival collections that are largely de-centralized in that they don’t have a formal institutional home and rely on the energy and enthusiasm of community members to grow and sustain a collection of materials important to that community. It doesn’t take very long to realize how useful these kinds of projects can be for realizing the ideals of the decolonial archive. Nor does it take very long to realize how a lack of institutional support can be dangerous for long-term preservation. These are just two of the many pros and cons of community archives that you’l come across in the readings.

Our readings this week are a break from the more theory-driven articles that we’ve had so far, focusing instead on various case studies of archival projects, and what is working and what isn’t. You also can get a sense of, given the LONG history of archives that we’ve been reading about, how relatively brand new these changes are–virtually all within the last 10 years and the bulk of them in the last 5. So you’re reading about contemporary experiences trying to change archival practices and grappling with the issues that such changes entail.

Two questions to keep in mind this week, and that you’ll write about in your reflection: are how new kinds of archives and archival practices in the form of community archives solving old archival problems (of the sort we’ve been reading about)? And what are the new problems (when an archive exists outside of a typical archival institution)?


  • NO VIDEO this week! I’ve written out above what I think is most important to keep in mind for the readings, and I’m guessing y’all could use a break from the weekly video. There will be one last overview/wrap-up video next week before break.
  • Andrew Flinn, Mary Stevens, and Elizabeth Shepherd, “Whose Memories, Whose Archives? Independent Community Archives, Autonomy and the Mainstream”, Archival Science, 9 (2009):71–86.
    • An older article that gives a good sense of the history of community archives and why they emerged, and the problems with simply knowing about them (one of the downsides of not being a mainstream archive). Also an interesting discussion about the relationship between identity and archives. There are many skimmable details related to specific projects (at least for our purposes), but they do provide a sense of historical change with respect to community archives compared to other case studies for this week.
  • Michelle Caswell, “Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation,” The Public Historian 36.4 (2014): 26–37.
    • A case study of sorts, but with some useful theory and reflection about how community archives intersect with many of the issues we’ve been reading about.
  • Jimmy Zavala et al., “‘A Process Where We’re All at the Table’: Community Archives Challenging Dominant Modes of Archival Practice”, Archives and Manuscripts 45, no. 3 (2017): 202–15.
    • Sort of like a roundtable of case studies; on the whole they highlight many practical issues with founding, energizing, and sustaining community archives.

Relevant (but optional)

  • Siobhan Senier, “Decolonizing the Archive: Digitizing Native Literature with Students and Tribal Communities.” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, 1.3 (2014).
  • María Cotera, “Nuestra Autohistoria: Toward a Chicana Digital Praxis,” American Quarterly 70.3 (2018): 483–504.
  • J. J. Ghaddar and Michelle Caswell, “‘To Go beyond’: Towards a Decolonial Archival Praxis”, Archival Science, 19.2 (2019), 71–85. But it really goes just to the top of 81.

Week 8 (Mar 8–12): Reflecting on Archives

We’ve learned a fair amount about the history of archives, archivists, relationships between historians and archives/archivists, archival power, silences, interfaces, and so on. But what if the point has not been to learn about archives per se, but about how to think critically about knowledge infrastructures—how we learn anything about the world, whether through favorite podcasts, network news, Facebook, online news outlets, Twitter, whatever.

In lieu of another awkward video, I’ve written up my own midterm reflection and hopes on what the course has been able to do so far. I hope it will be useful for you in your assignment this week, a double-length reflection on our half-semester so far.

I contend, for the purposes of debate, that everything we read about in terms of archives applies to basically every source of information. The same kinds of biases creep in, the same kinds of silences, the same limitations and exploratory possibilities of interfaces (and algorithms, not to get ahead of ourselves). What do you think?

Week 9: Mar 15–19: NOTHING: Enjoy Spring Break!!!

IMPORTANT Second Half Announcements in these boxes

Week 10 (Mar 22–27): Algorithmic Texts

  • If you missed or skipped the above message boxes—read them!
  • First half questions and things to keep in mind moving from archives to algorithms
  • Lauren Klein, “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings”, American Literature 85.4 (2013): 661–88.
  • Lara Putnam, “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast”, The American Historical Review 121.2 (2016): 377–402.

Week 11 (Mar 29–Apr 2): Everyday algorithms

  • REview from last week
  • Virgina Eubanks, “The digital poorhouse”, Harper’s Magazine (Jan 2018).
  • Michele Willson, “Algorithms (and the) Everyday.” Information, Communication & Society 20.1 (2017): 137–50.
  • John Danaher, ‘The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation’, Philosophy & Technology, 29.3 (2016): 245–68.

Week 12 (Apr 5–9): Carceral Archives and Algorithms

Week 13 (Apr 12–16): Dataveillance

  • Video highlights of past readings, responses, and questions
  • Jose van Dijck, “Datafication, Dataism and Dataveillance: Big Data between Scientific Paradigm and Ideology’, Surveillance & Society 12.2 (2014): 197–208.
  • Holger Pötzsch, “Archives and Identity in the Context of Social Media and Algorithmic Analytics: Towards an Understanding of iArchive and Predictive Retention”, New Media & Society 20.9 (2018), 3304–22.
  • Frank Pasquale, Digital star chamber, Aeon.

Week 14 (Apr 19–23): Representation

  • Manissa M. Maharawal and Erin McElroy, “The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project: Counter Mapping and Oral History toward Bay Area Housing Justice”, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108.2 (2018): 380–89.
  • Todd Presner, “The Ethics of the Algorithm: Close and Distant Listening to the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive”, in Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture, ed. by Claudio Fogu (Harvard University Press, 2016), 167–202.

Week 15: April 26–30

Nothing new this week: Your “From Archives to Algorithms” op-ed was originally due the end of the week, but there’s no reason to hurry. OP-EDS ARE NOW DUE THE LAST DAY OF CLASSES, FRIDAY MAY 7.

Week 16: May 3–7

  • Your op-eds are DUE ON FRIDAY (feel free to post before then). Op-eds should be posted as a SEPARATE PAGE on your blog, like the other special assignments we’ve had. Thank you!
  • Think about your final course reflections due the end of finals week!

All coursework due by FRIDAY May 14!