One of the suggestions made in discussions on remix to cope with the problem of authorship in the digital age, is to shift the focus from the author to the selector, the moderator or the curator. In cases where authorship is hard to establish or even absent, the archive can function as a similar tool to establish authority. These two solutions to the issues of authorship, authority and originality have been examined by Eduardo Navas, artist, curator, and remix theorist.
To deal with the constantly changing now, Navas turns to history as a source of authority, to give legitimacy to fluidity retrospectively by means of the archive. The ability to search the archive gives the remix both its reliability as well as its market value, Navas argues. By recording information, it becomes meta-information, information that is, as Navas states, static, it is available when needed and always in the same form. And this recorded state, this staticity of information retrospectively, is what makes theory and philosophical thinking possible, as Navas claims, “the archive, then, legitimates constant updates allegorically. The database becomes a delivery device of authority in potentia: when needed, call upon it to verify the reliability of accessed material; but until that time, all that is needed is to know that such archive exists.
Navas is, however, also ambivalent about the archive as a search engine, where he argues that in many ways it is a truly egalitarian space—able to answer as he states ‘all questions’—but one that is easily commercialized too. What does it mean when Google harvests the data we collect and our databases are predominantly build up on social media sites? As Navas states, in this respect we are also witnessing an increasing rise of information flow control.
The problem with the archive as a legitimation device for that what it keeps, as a tool to provide the necessary critical distance as Navas argues, is that the archive an sich does not provide any legitimation but is build upon the authority and the commands that constitute the archive. This is what Derrida calls the politics of the archive. What is kept and preserved is connected to power structures, the power of those who decide what to collect (and on what grounds) and the power to interpret the archive and its content when called upon for legitimatory claims later on. The question of authority does not so much lie with the archive, but with who has access to the archive and with who gets to constitute it. At the same time, although it has no real legitimatory power of its own, the archive is used as an objectified extension of the power structures that control it. Furthermore, as Derrida also shows, archiving is an act of externalization, of trying to create stable abstracts. A critique of the archive can be that instead of functioning as a legitimation device, its focus is foremost on objectification, commercialization and consummation, where knowledge streams are turned into knowledge objects, where we order knowledge into consumable bits. As Navas already states, the search engine, based upon the growing digital archive we are collectively building, is Google’s bread and butter. For instance, by initializing large projects like Google Book Search, Google on the one hand aims to make the world’s archive digitally available—digitize the “world’s knowledge” or at least, the part Google finds appropriate to digitize, mostly works in American and British libraries (and thus mostly English language works)—which in Google’s terms means making them freely searchable. And Google partners with many libraries worldwide to make this service available. However, most of the time only snippets of poorly digitized information are freely available and for the full-text functionality, or more contextualized information, books can be acquired via for instance Google’s Ebooks programme (formerly Google Editions). This makes all the more clear how within this environment, search is fully embedded within a commercial framework.
The interpretation of the archive is a fluctuating one, the stability it seems to offer a fraud. As Derrida describes, the digital offers new and different ways of archiving, and thus also a different vision on that what it constitutes and archives (both from a producer as well as from a consumer perspective). Furthermore, the archiving possibilities also determine the structure of the content that will be archived as it is becoming. The archive thus produces just as much as it records the event. The archive produces information, it produces knowledge, and it decides how we determine what knowledge will be. And the way the archive is constructed is very much a consideration under institutional and practical constraints. What, for instance, made Library of Congress decide to preserve and archive all public Twitter Feeds starting from its inception in 2006? And why only Twitter and not other similar social media sites? The relationship of the archive to science is a mutual one, as they determine each other. A new paradigm also asks for and creates a new vision of the archive. This is why, as Derrida states, ‘the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.’ The archive does not stabilize or guarantee any concept. Foucault acknowledges this ‘fluidity of the archive’ where he sees the archive as a general system of both the formation and transformation of statements. But the archive also structures knowledge and our way of perceiving the world, as we operate and see the world from within the archive. As Foucault states: ‘it is from within these rules that we speak, since it is that which gives to what we can say.’ The archive can thus be seen as governing us and this again goes directly against the idea of critical distance Navas wants to achieve with his idea of the archive, as we can never be ‘outside’ the archive. Let me reiterate that the above critique is not focused on doing away with the archive or on the creation of (Open Access) archives, which play an essential role in amongst others the making accessible of scholarly research, preserving it, adding metadata and making it harvestable. It is focused mainly on being aware of the structures at play behind the archive and on putting question marks at both the perceived stability of the archive, as well as at its authority and legitimacy.
 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever : A Freudian Impression (1995) 12.
 Ibidem, 17.
 Ibidem, 45.
 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge. (2nd ed. Routledge, 1969) 146.