Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom

rogue-archiveRogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom

By Abigail De Kosnik

2016 | MIT Press


The task of archiving was once entrusted only to museums, libraries, and other institutions that acted as repositories of culture in material form. But with the rise of digital networked media, a multitude of self-designated archivists—fans, pirates, hackers—have become practitioners of cultural preservation on the Internet. These nonprofessional archivists have democratized cultural memory, building freely accessible online archives of whatever content they consider suitable for digital preservation. In Rogue Archives, Abigail De Kosnik examines the practice of archiving in the transition from print to digital media, looking in particular at Internet fan fiction archives.

De Kosnik explains that media users today regard all of mass culture as an archive, from which they can redeploy content for their own creations. Hence, “remix culture” and fan fiction are core genres of digital cultural production. De Kosnik explores, among other things, the anticanonical archiving styles of Internet preservationists; the volunteer labor of online archiving; how fan archives serve women and queer users as cultural resources; archivists’ efforts to attract racially and sexually diverse content; and how digital archives adhere to the logics of performance more than the logics of print. She also considers the similarities and differences among free culture, free software, and fan communities, and uses digital humanities tools to quantify and visualize the size, user base, and rate of growth of several online fan archives.


About the Author

Abigail De Kosnik is Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, with a joint appointment in the Berkeley Center for New Media and the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.



Abigail De Kosnik has written a roguishly smart and inspiringly affirmative look at the political promise of digital archives created by fans, amateurs, hackers, volunteers, and pirates. Charting a dramatic shift between archive and repertoire, De Kosnik looks closely at the labor involved in fandom. People commonly marginalized in dominant narratives of technological development (LGBTQ, people of color, women) are innovating practices that significantly alter how cultural memory takes form at all. The implications of the shape-shifting of memory away from dominant tracks of power through new media are enormous. In De Kosnik’s hands we get a fresh look at what a roguish future history ‘may-be.’”

Rebecca Schneider, Professor, Brown University; author of Performing Remains

“In this theoretically ambitious and densely researched book, Abigail De Kosnik offers a much-needed conceptualization of the ways in which online networks have reshaped—and may yet transform further—the cultural production of memory and its relationship to the ideal of democracy. Women, queers, and people of color in no way command the means of Internet production, but their archival and creative efforts may be read, as De Kosnik does so brilliantly, as models for a fresh, politically urgent, and licentiously rogue rethinking of the relationships among embodied performance and digital media, labor and pleasure, scandal and commonness, freedom and control.”

Nick Salvato, Associate Professor and Chair of Performing and Media Arts, Cornell University; author of Obstruction

“Rogue Archives looks at digital cultural memory, and how those involved in creating online content (particularly fan fiction, and the resulting fan fiction archives) are changing the hegemony of culture as defined by the creative industries. This groundbreaking text details how people are working together to create a nuanced and more inclusive discussion about culture, society, fandom, and consumption and creation.”

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Humanities and Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, University College London; author of Defining Digital Humanities