Living InFinite Museums by James Carraghan


The Internet is a museum that goes on forever. This is what I want to believe, at least.

We are firmly in the grasp of the Digital Humanities revolution. This means things are irreparably different now. The Digital Humanities—and what that term is going to encompass is a question we are still working out—will bring us everything and nothing new all at once.

Do not ask me what that means exactly. No one quite knows. The best definition I found was a website that generated a new definition each time you refreshed the page. But we can mostly agree that the Digital Humanities probably involves computers and the Internet.

The changing reality of the Digital Humanities era means that we can no longer function in a single framework. We need to find ways to push beyond the frames we inherited, to find where that frame can be connected with others to form new structures. Periodically, these structures will be ruined so that we can begin again.

We are the first generation that is able to hold 2,000 books or more in our hand at one time without being crushed under them, on a device equal in weight and smaller in size than your average poetry collection. Whether we will remember these works and use them, or not, is another matter. This is one of many paradoxes of the Digital age.

A museum holds what we value, or at least what we are supposed to value. Value always has a particular concern behind it. We should always ask who is deciding where value is to be found. There are things we value too much for questioning. We call these things traditions. These are the things, of course, that we must question most.

The Internet is a museum that goes on forever. The art of museum directorship lays in having a knack for knowing what to keep and what to expel. No one vessel can encompass everything.

The Internet is the most democratic form that exists–so long as you have access to a computer, electricity, wi-fi, modems, consumerism, a capitalist world, money, time and the English language.

If you have access to this ‘launch pad’ you can find anything.

But as anyone who has tried to find Truth will tell you, it vanishes rapidly before your eyes. This is where we start to find our limits.

The Internet is finite and infinite, something that stretches outside of the dimensions of space, while still suffering from the borders of reality.

The Internet is a museum that can be demolished without the weight of a falling bomb.

On the Internet, things end with a whimper, not a bang.

We surround ourselves with the things we value, and the things we are supposed to value, both in reality and on our Facebook walls.

We can try to archive the Internet, either in other digital spaces, or we try to print it out as a form of banal artistry, only to find that it reproduces like a family of rabbits.

No one will ever see the entirety of the Internet.

It is imperative that we recognize the limitations of our space in the same way that we recognize what this same space capable of. We need to know how to break the frames of our existence, but to break them well, in the best way we can.

This is true of life as well as the Internet.

We exist in finite museums, sectioned off from an infinite world. That is the joy and terror of our condition in a sentence.

This finite space is here to find what is worth preserving and replicating, to find an aspect of the previously unfocused and unfeatured.

The Internet is a lot like the vanishing point in a painting. The Internet lives in that moment where space seems to go on forever. You cannot see the whole of the Internet. And yet you can put this image within a frame and place it on your refrigerator, to make it a smaller part of your larger world, to capture it if only for a moment or two.

We can still find space in finite museums.

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