The recent proliferation of free-access digital archives opened a new era of research in which costs decrease as information flourishes. This abundance represents countless possibilities, but as material becomes more vast and accessible, the anxieties for publishing increase, in a profession that already dealt with a haunting “race against time” to present results. In addition, the challenge of accessing larger bulks of material builds up pressure, calling for more precision in arguments, as results derive from a larger amount of primary sources. The use of fan magazines as sources for academic research is vast in film and media studies, but its potential across newer fields—such as fashion and celebrity studies—is increasingly bringing more players into the game.
Moving forward with these changes without analyzing the extent of their impact would be awry. In this landscape, Carlo Ginzburg’s Microhistory and Walter Benjamin’s problematization of historical debris need to be revisited, not in metatheoretical manner, but rather in a search for answers in this new reconfiguration. My argument for this workshop is that abundance and time constrains enable a reformulation of research questions and the emergence of a more collaborative research environment; more material also requires more contextual knowledge, making the bulk of work increase exponentially. In addition, I call to not lose from sight that abundance does not imply completion, calling for awareness of the—always-tempting—illusion of historical completion.
This presentation explores the potentials and anxieties brought by the abundance and accessibility of digital archives, as it also intends to offer an overview of a potential reconfiguration of academic work enabled by these new research platforms. As with every workshop, I bring more questions than answer to open up for debate. How can we get pass the anxiety of abundance? Do we need to “zoom in” deeper when conducting research in this new landscape? How do research networks reconfigure as more material becomes electronically available? Is this new availability of material opening up for historical revisionisms? How do we incorporate these tools in the classroom?