I have an essay, “Meditations in an Emergency: On the Apparent Destruction of my MP3 Collection” in an excellent new anthology of essays called Contemporary Collecting: Objects, Practices and the Fate of Things, edited by David Banash and Kevin Moist. It’s a great collection, and includes Stanley Cavell’s important essay on collecting, and nice work by Banash and others. I got kind of obsessed with collecting while writing In Praise of Copying, since collectors are some of the most profound thinkers of the distinction between original and copy, or good copy and bad copy. My essay is about what it means to lose and then try to restore a digital collection today, and is written in diary form, describing my own recent experiences with my MP3 collection. On the one hand, it feels like data is infinitely retrievable today, and that collection is therefore quite banale (this is the argument that Simon Reynolds makes in his Retromania). On the other hand, when you actually lose data, it turns out to be much more fragile, much more contingent than you thought. But losing data can open us up to recognizing that, against the model of the private collector with his or her hoards, the basis of collection is sharing. When the infrastructure that supports sharing really exists, our love of particular objects isn’t diminished, but our desire to hoard it is.
Update: The excellent PopMatters has just reprinted the essay in full here!