Documents for the Nonhuman

  • Erik Radio University of Colorado, Boulder

Abstract

As the Anthropocene advances, questions about what life on earth will look like in the geological short term are varied and difficult to answer with much specificity. What the Anthropocene has made clear though is that the ongoing existence of life, or life as it is currently understood, is not at all a given. Memory institutions face a challenge on an unprecedented scale - how does one continue the ongoing work of documenting the human record, while at the same time considering how those documents, metadata, and ephemera can be used by the readers of the Anthropocene? How does one document for the nonhuman? While an understandably bleak situation, the Anthropocene allows for realistic questions about the nature of work in libraries, archives, and museums to be asked, and what it means to continue creating records and documentation when they are for entities humans may never encounter. Further, what does documenting for the long term and unknown mean about how we document for humans now? This paper explores the idea of the nonanthropocentric document to illuminate assumptions about the frameworks in which meaning can be communicated and codified and how, or if, this can used to assess what would otherwise be a problem of endless context.

Pre-print first published online 08/25/2019

Author Biography

Erik Radio, University of Colorado, Boulder

Assistant Professor and Metadata Librarian

Published
2020-05-17