The Operating System

summoning the archive

A Symposium & Print Fest
Considering the Periodical, Printed Matter, and Digital Archiving
May 11-13 | Institute for Public Knowledge | NYU

The above archival “zine” / document was created by Meghan Forbes (Institute of Public Knowledge / harlequin creature) and Lynne DeSilva-Johnson (The Operating System) as an open source dissemination and dialogue tool in tandem with the Summoning the Archive Symposium and Print Festival, held May 11-13, 2017. As is all too often the case with these events, access is very limited, and all too often critically valuable insight to the wider community is lost or trapped — behind paywalls or other barriers. We spoke to symposium participants as well as to those involved in the publications taking part in the PRINT FEST, posing a series of questions about the topics central to the event, and catalogued their answers (and our original questions) here. Zine designed by Lynne DeSilva-Johnson. Cover by Meghan Forbes, done with risograph.

The printing and distribution of the avant-garde magazine, illustrated weekly, and underground zine have developed in the twentieth century in tandem with technological advancements in printing and access to these technologies in various regions, gaining traction in different parts of the world at different times based on economic, social, and political conditions. At its best, the magazine is an efficient, relatively affordable (for both publisher and consumer) vehicle for the artists and intellectuals it represents, and has the capacity to innovate with new technologies and engage in pressing social, political, and artistic issues. This is even more true now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, as we observe new models for content, design, and distribution of the periodical or magazine published on-line, which has the potential to involve an even wider audience, and host a variety of multi-media content. The magazine thus continues to be a leading platform for social and political engagement, and artistic innovation.

Corresponding to a turn towards the digital, the field of Periodical Studies has gained traction as it situates the magazine as a cultural product that incorporates text, image, and graphic design toward various political, social, artistic, and pedagogical ends. With large scale projects dedicated to digitizing print based magazines, such as the Blue Mountain project at Princeton University or the Modernist Journals Project at Brown, and a concurrent turn towards digital mapping and data visualization, periodicals that were once sequestered in the archive now have the capacity to reach a wider audience, and make visible previously overlooked networks and connections enacted within and across the magazines.

The Symposium on the Periodical, Printed Matter, and Digital Archiving and Print Fest, to be held at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU will bring together publishers, editors, artists, archivists, librarians, and scholars from the Social Sciences and Humanities to come together around various methodologies and archival practices, and explore the following topics and questions:

  • Politics of language and translation in multilingual or internationally circulated publications.
  • Trans-networks: serial print culture as an intersectional axis for place, culture, genre, language, race, gender, sexuality.
  • Does printed matter “translate” digitally?
  • How does the library intervene in its archived periodicals through systems of cataloging, binding, and preservation?
  • How does this affect the accessibility of these collections for researchers?
  • Gaps in the archive: what periodicals and other printed ephemera have been left out?
  • What can be done to source and preserve historical periodicals originally not held in collections?
  • Likewise, what historical print magazines have not been digitized?
  • What geographic-linguistic regions, gender, cultural, religious, and racial orientations are neglected?
  • Effective strategies for making visible and accessible digitized collections through Open Source platforms, as well as data visualization and digital mapping projects.
  • Distant versus close reading strategies.
  • Possible pedagogical applications.
  • The role and relevance of the print-based mag in our highly digital moment.
  • How does the digital magazine correspond with or subvert the conception of periodical as a material product and cultural form?
  • How do zines, comics, and avant-garde publications resist the potential for the periodical to be simply an inevitable by-product of consumerist, capitalist culture? Do they?

Organized by Meghan Forbes with the Institute for Public Knowledge