"Time Will Tell, But Epistemology Won't: In Memory of Richard Rorty" A Symposium to Celebrate Richard Rorty's Archive
On May 14, 2010, UC Irvine hosted a symposium to celebrate the opening of the Richard Rorty Papers in the UC Irvine Libraries Critical Theory Archive for research. Rorty was a pragmatist philosopher, critical theorist, and public intellectual who is commonly described as one of the most important thinkers of his era. In addition to almost 25 linear feet of papers, the Richard Rorty Archive also include over 1,000 born-digital word processing files that were preserved from Rorty's floppy disks in UCIspace @ the Libraries.
Participants in the Time Will Tell, But Epistemology Won't symposium addressed a number of key questions for criticism in the era of computational media. What is an archive if it includes “born digital” materials? How do new forms of digital production and reception change the character of scholarly discourse? What is the relationship between public memory and computer memory? How should teaching materials be handled in the age of open courseware? How can Rorty’s ideas about philosophy as cultural politics be read in both the liberal and the academic blogospheres? How can more dialogue between critical theory and the digital humanities be fostered?
The symposium was sponsored by the UC Irvine Libraries, the UC Irvine Humanities Center, the UC Irvine Critical Theory Emphasis, the UC Irvine Department of Philosophy, the UC Irvine Department of Comparative Literature, the Office of the Campus Writing Coordinator, and the systemwide University of California Humanities Research Institute.
Speakers included Elizabeth Losh (UC Irvine), David Theo Goldberg (UC Irvine), Mary Rorty, (Stanford), Michelle Light (UC Irvine), Dawn Schmitz (UC Irvine), Erin Obodiac (UC Irvine), Tom Hyry (UCLA), Christine Borgman (UCLA), Iain Thomson (University of New Mexico), Mark Wrathall (UC Riverside), Margaret Gilbert (UC Irvine), Ian Bogost (Georgia Tech), Steven Mailloux (Loyola Marymount), Ali M. Meghdadi (UC Irvine), Brian Garcia (UC Irvine), Tae-Kyung Timothy Elijah Sung (UC Irvine), and Michael Bérubé (Pennsylvania State).
Although digital archives appear to herald a golden age of public access to the res publica, they might also institute an immunitarian logic that subtracts the deed of gift and the obligation of public service—the munus—from the scholarly community, adding instead a potentially endless stockpile of private digital property to an aggregate of exempted individuals.
Archives and manuscript librarians use the term "born digital" to refer to personal papers that were created using a computer, received by the archives as computer files, and accessed by researchers electronically. Using Richard Rorty's word-processing files as illustration, this paper discusses the significance of these technological conditions of production and reception for how this type of manuscript may be handled by an archivist and presented to researchers seeking to learn about a scholar's intellectual work. The author works as an archivist at the University of California, Irvine Libraries, where she processed the Richard Rorty Papers for the Critical Theory Archive.
Light spoke generally about the major issues facing archivists who manage born digital records and how the UCI Libraries responded when providing access to the Richard Rorty papers. She discussed the challenges, such as dealing with rapid technological change, ensure present and future accessibility of legacy files, managing privacy and copyrights, guaranteeing the authenticity and integrity of files, preventing loss and destruction, and selecting the most important material for preservation. She also discussed numerous decisions archivists make that impact the future archive, such as emulation or preservation of the original computing environment, the organization of files, the migration of materials to new formats, and human or machine-generated description of the materials. She concluded with a description of the UCI Libraries' Digital Scholarship Service, which endeavors to help faculty manage their digital research for future generations.
Human rights are often thought to be "natural" in the sense that human beings possess them independently of any human agreements or social conventions. One's humanity itself and that alone is supposed to ground such rights. Clearly this supposition stands in need of justification. Rorty believes that it cannot be justified. In his view there are no morally relevant "transcultural facts". Thus the transcultural fact of one's humanity cannot ground human rights. Nonetheless, he believes, we should welcome and promote what Eduardo Rabossi refers to as our "human rights culture", which works to counteract the kind of dehumanization that often accompanies the maltreatment of some human beings by others.
One of Rorty's last publications is an afterword he contributed to an updated edition of the 1907 classic _Christianity and the Social Crisis_ written ny the Social Gospel giant, Walter Rauschenbusch, who was Rorty's maternal grandfather. In this reflection on my experience organizing the archive, I attempt to situate Rorty's atheism between the religious pragmatism of his students Cornel West and Jeffrey Stout, and the anti-liberal New Traditionalism of John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas.
At the opening of the 'Rorty Born Digital' archive, Mary Rorty salutes prolific publication and authorial responsibility, and meditates on the future of print media.
This paper references Mary Rorty's translation of Peter Sloterdjik's "Rules for the Human Zoo", which she published in Society and Space, volume 27, no.1, February 12-28, 2009.
This essay briefly explains Heidegger's critique of the ontotheological danger and the post-modern promise of technological archivization, and then discusses Rorty's response to Heidegger's view.