The Internet Archive: Tectonics of the Immaterial

ARCH 574 | Fall 2018
Associate Professor Therese Tierney


KEYWORDS: Data Centers, Mediatheque, Material Footprint, Immaterial Tectonics, Data Infrastructure, Geology of Media

Presently, The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge.”  Since our culture now produces more and more artifacts in digital form, the Archive’s mission is to help preserve those artifacts and create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars.  Bringing the library into the 21st century means leading its digital transformation—in ways that do not merely copy or reproduce books, films, music, and more onto storage drives (although even this much hasn't been completed yet). More importantly, digital technology changes social practices in that it provides an opportunity to share knowledge, which is critical for new scholarship, arts, and the overall information needs of a socially equitable society.

This studio is based on actual RFP: In November 2016, Brewster Kahle announced that the Internet Archive was building a back-up library, a digital doppelganger, the Internet Archive of Canada, a copy to be constructed in Toronto. In the announcement, Kahle was quoted as saying:

“Throughout history, libraries have fought against terrible violations of privacy—where people have been rounded up simply for what they read. At the Internet Archive, we are fighting to protect our readers' right to information in the digital world.”

This design research studio includes a parametric workshop led by SOM Blackbox in Chicago.