The iPhone Is an Archive

In Ann Cvetkovich’s “Archive of Feelings” she discusses the extreme level of difficulty associated with archiving the feelings associated with the trauma felt by the lesbian community. This is because there are not enough words in the extensive English language, or any language, or all languages combined to adequately describe such personal experiences and emotions. However, if Cvetkovich had access to this community’s iPhone could she make great progress with such an archive?

The iPhone as an archive is an extensive concept. Firstly, it archives your words. Your text messages date back for as long as one has had the device. Possibly longer than that as Apple now allows for text messages to be backed up to the Cloud and then transferred across devices. So now messages can be catalogued as far back as one’s first iPhone. This is a drastic change from cell phones dating back ten years ago that could only store fifty text messages. Not even fifty messages per person. Just fifty text messages and then they were deleted and replaced. So including text messaging, how many other ways are there for an iPhone to archive our words? Potentially countless. Apps such as Kik, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are primarily catalogues of thought that one chooses to share with a community of friends or interested others. Also the potential to receive e-mail on your iPhone is endless. A user can have every account sent directly to the iPhone. One can read, respond, create and even attach documents and images from their phone. Checking e-mail isn’t as tedious when they come straight to the user wherever they may be. Though these apps primarily deal with words, there are also photos and video posted to such archives.

Photography on an iPhone is a part of almost all of the apps discussed so far, but it also has its own forums such as Instagram and SnapChat. However, thanks to the gallery and the potential for extensive storage photographs and videos can be stored even if they aren’t shared with a community of viewers. This gallery now has functions such as time stamping, facial identification, location pinpointing, and extensive options for editing. These features highlight the popularity of the camera on an iPhone. No longer does the average person carry an expensive, bulky digital camera around every day. However, the iPhone is conveniently stored in one’s back pocket and its camera is becoming more sophisticated all of the time.

Location is a third archive an iPhone keeps for its user. When a user seeks directions the primary application used to provide routes stores this information in its history. Weathers apps uses GPS to determine a user’s location to provide updated weather and alerts. Its interesting to note that since September 11th, 2001 a phone’s internal GPS cannot be turned off[1]. This is done for emergency purposes as phones are often means of locating people in emergencies. However, all of the uses of GPS must seek user permission, though many of us do not hesitate to allow it, including apps specifically designed to aid users in emergencies. Some apps, such as Watch Over Me send the user’s GPS location to preselected contacts if a user doesn’t indicate their safety by a designated time. This insures prompt action if, for example, a woman is attacked walking home at night, while archiving those times we feel unsafe.

This type of application leads us back to Ann Cvetkovich’s “Archive of Feelings”. The women she was discussing left little to no records of their trauma and when they were able to communicate Cvetkovich notes the incompleteness of the archive. However, if Cvetkovich had access to these women’s iPhones, how much more details could she have made her archives? Access to the thoughts described numerous ways: social medias, blogs, text messages. There could be images of the trauma, even if the trauma isn’t physical. Photography is an art and a form of personal expression and trauma demands to be expressed. The ability to locate where others are feeling the same trauma or recall where one was traumatized. There may be no words extensive enough for Cvetkovich’s archives, but give her an iPhone and perhaps watch the progress.

[1] Federal Communications Commision

5 thoughts on “The iPhone Is an Archive”

  1. Yes, iphones can be a massive archive of our history and stages of life, but how useful is it, really? It’s very likely that people who experienced trauma didn’t talk about it with their phones, and besides, we might run into the whole problem of too much information – when you save everything, you probably will see more wasted bits of info than useful bits, and it could even be counterproductive.


  2. Cool to think about our entire lives now having the potential to be documented by single devices. Like the last comment said I’m just not sure how useful that will really be, as such a vast and incredible amount of information is being saved and stored every day. I think the next step might not be what it is we are archiving, but how we are doing it so that we are able to understand it.


  3. I like how you used specific examples of how the iPhone stores literally everything, because its kinda true. iPhones have everything and if we were to materialize everything they had, like music to cd’s and emails to letters, etc. 64GB is probably about two big shelves full of our archives. Having everything on one device makes an individual much more attached and dependent. I think we really just need to sit down and think about the important stuff. Like are your text messages from last semester as important to you as photos?


  4. I completely agree with all your arguments of the iPhone being an archive. As you said, there are so many apps and looking at all of this together, we are able to see the iPhone as a huge archive.


  5. I really liked everything you talked about in this blog post. I can totally relate to using my iPhone for absolutely everything, especially when it comes to checking emails and keeping up with my social media. I also really liked how you talked about the GPS on your iPhones. That is a feature I probably rely on too much, but I am so thankful to have it, especially in emergencies or when I take a wrong turn.


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