While a computer cannot remember AIDS, the ways that we understand and put networked computing to use can.
The suggestion that ‘memory is an active process, not static,’ that memory must be ‘held’ rather than filed away, is one I extend to AIDS Internet history via archival work.
Following feminist scholars like Lauren Berlant and Sarah Sharma, I am interested in the kind of affective work that happens as we adjust, or get-by, within conditions not necessarily of our own making. How do technologies remember?
Hard drives store, potentially for access but just as often for redundant backup, while archives are characterized by their orientation toward access. Archival access is particularly vital in the context of HIV/AIDS archives, which have struggled to exist in the first place due to the consequences of AIDS-related death and the compulsory heterosexuality of archival logics. Archives preserve and offer access to records in ways that computers cannot—it is widely known that hard drives fail and obsolete machines become inoperable.
Any archive is, of course, a technology of power. As archival logics order cultural memory, they render certain ‘AIDS of the past’ intelligible, often at the expense of others. Mining documents that speak to AIDS activism’s entanglement with emerging internet and computing practices is a material and embodied process—of sifting, sorting, squinting—that attempts to hold onto technological memories of HIV/AIDS, and to activate another kind of AIDS archive.
Throughout the film, high-level data infrastructures in the United States are pictured failing: financial records, the FBI’s database, air traffic control, and medical records databases all fall into chaos against a backdrop of HIV/AIDS and its now-iconic protest cultures.
During the film’s climax, Angela Bennett escapes her pursuers by darting out of a large tech convention to blend into an ACT UP protest/vigil in downtown Los Angeles.