I came across a video interview on Democracy Now with Brewster Kahle and Rick Prelinger—two of the great open content pioneers of the digital age—talking about digital preservation, the Google juggernaut, and the home movie archive. One of the things that struck me during the interview was Rick Prelinger’s distinction between personal and corporate expression.
And home movies are astonishing, because they’re, as you say, personal, not corporate, expression. They’re individuals witnessing history, not simply great events, but also history of everyday life. And we’re building a home movie collection at the Internet Archive for all of us to compare, understand, experience, to reuse, and for the use of scholars. And we hope that this will really change the way that people look at film, because film is not just movies that you go to and pay 10 bucks to see. Movies are also the way we look at each other.
It seems obvious that studio films, most TV, etc. are corporate expressions, but all too often they seem other than that—they seem to be stories that may happen to be corporate funded—but not necessarily corporate expressions. But is that the case? When these corporate expressions are contrasted with the often non-linear, non-narrative form of the personal expressions in home movies the idea of the culture industry as defining a predominant sense of a capital-driven expression seems obvious.
How much of my nostalgia for video games, hollywood films, and the toys of my youth might be understood as corporate expressions? What’s more, at what point are they personal? Where is the in-between space of this idea in which the corporate expression becomes a deeply personal one without being a kind of necessary zombification of one’s creative soul? Is the idea of corporate overdetermined in this case? Then again maybe the idea of personal is? These are by no means new questions, but I love how the idea of the corporate versus personal expression as a distinction drawn by Prelinger brings these questions into a sharp light for the digital age in which the ability to create and share our personal expressions has never been easier or more commonplace.
The idea of archiving the everyday is what turned me onto the digital in the first place—but more and more I’m finding archiving is just another side effect of the possibilities implicit within the moment.