Kimberly Hall responds to Richard Menke

I love Richard Menke’s phrase, “an unsearchable dark web of Victorian print culture,” to describe the ephemeral media Susan Zieger is exploring in her text; it’s an apt contemporary metaphor to refamiliarize readers with the archive that is both materially lost and affectively present in the media consumption practices it inculcated. I would counter that this resonance is so strong because the Web itself is grappling with how to handle its own ephemeral content, creating more of a shadow web than a dark web. This shadow web is a graveyard of all of the things that once were important and now seem so firmly rooted in their own historical moment that they are more artifact than text. Although search engines like Google and ProQuest, to Menke’s point, have little interest in directing users there today because of the lack of monetization opportunities, there are archival efforts like Wayback Machine, which allow you to linger over a MySpace page from 2001 or a WELL chat room conversation from 1996. These encounters could produce an affective experience akin to reverie, which Zieger defines as “unstructured, spontaneous, ostensibly uncoerced contemplativeness” (169), a powerful pause in the click-through pace of engagement that defines the “economies of mediated attention” Menke points to. Encountering the networked past in this archival format, detached from its original context, also runs the risk of “obscuring the differences in the moment and [the] occasion of its repetition” (211), an experience that potentially flattens the transformational potential of affective engagement.

Lindsay Wilhelm responds to Richard Menke

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