Friday, January 18, 2008

Archive or not

Blogs archived in Singapore's National Library (NLB)? Well, that makes sense if you consider the library as an archival source of all things Singapore and probably South-east Asia. And this is precisely what the NLB is doing with several prominent Singapore-centred and originated blogs such as the notorious, the irreverent and the infamous, amongst others. But it appears that not every Singapore blogger is happy. Many are complaining that the trashy (albeit award winning and profitable) xiaxue blog does not deserve this 'honour' for the fact that it has little by way of substance and lots by way of vulgarity, according to the opinion of not a few Singaporeans. But since when has substance got to do with anything in today's iPod generation? Heck, many of this generation do not even visit the brick and mortar library anymore. Whatever they need to know they can find and read and see on the Internet, period.

I do not belong to the iPod generation. I have never found sticking anything into one's ears from the time one gets out of the house to the time one arrives in school or work pleasurable. That's because for most of the time, one's ear drums are fighting for the attention of so much sound that the music blasting out of the iPods or Sony Ericsson Wxxxx phones becomes part of the sound, or to be precise, noise. But I digress.

I can understand what a thrill it would be to have one's humble blog archived and catalogued permanently in NLB's collections. However, before one goes off and think that he/she is the next Shakespeare, that archival choice is a statement of the blog's existence, not its worth. The jury is still out on whether the writing is of any worth at all. An Archivist's job is to preserve as much of what there is without judging the worth of any particular piece or body of written work. That judgment will ultimately be made by historians, and, with all due respect, the NLB are no historians. By this act of selecting, and thereby making value judgments, the NLB has opened itself up to criticism. Why this blog and not that one? Why is one blog more worthwhile archiving than another? After all, they are all written by Singaporeans. They form a part of Singapore's unofficial written history. By being selective, its does history and historians an injustice by prejudging what is worth keeping and what is not worth keeping. It does Sociologists much injustice by judging that a particular type of behaviour is more representative of current social norms compared to another.

The NLB are archivists and it should do just that. Archive and leave the interpretation of the historical records to the trained historians and sociologists.

Image source:


lee said...

One week after the NLB announced to the whole world that they will be archiving 11 "famous, important or expert bloggers etc" - most of the intelligent blogs fell silent.

I wonder whether that fact will be archived? That in my opinion says alot more than words can ever do. Action speaks louder than words.

I for one will really miss those smart ones who write more than one sentence. Lee

Anonymous said...

I don't blame ppl from getting pissed off. It's a very natural reaction.

NLB can say anything they want, but they have alienated a fair segment of netizens.

Will they try to make good? I don't believe so. There is too much at stake. I believe they will keep quiet and the MSM will even play along hoping that it will just go quietly away.

One thing remains clear from all this, people like you who spoke out will go down in history.

Many years from now, when school kids read abt our 'history' my hope as a father of 3 is some of them will come across such blogs and say,

"Why did they miss this out? What else have they missed out on!"

Tan Ah Kow said...

History is my right. History belongs to me not a few civil servants in some big white elephant building. History is not just the rich, famous and well connected.

If they don't write it, that's OK. I will write it for them!