'Only you can see what you've saved."
Says the text at the top of my saved pictures on Instagram. But it's an anomaly in social media, where things are invariably meant to be shared. It once again positions collecting at the crux of two opposing spaces, public and private. Collecting might, at first, appear to be a private task, but it is unavoidable always in conversation. With the creators, with the original owners, with other collectors. Like a second hand book with someone else's highlighted passages.
Poet Donald Hall proposed a theory of 'third things' in a relationship, which I think applies to our relationship with other people as a whole as much as it does our relationship to any one specific person. "We did not spend our days gazing into each other’s eyes." Hall said of his relationship with his wife Jane Kenyon "… most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing." Third things - be they art, poetry, or anything else - can provide an external reference point for an internal experience. Like how I find it hard to convey any of my thoughts or experience without inevitably asking "have you seen The Last Unicorn?".
And collections, archives, inevitably link the
Preserving the former for the sake of the latter.
But even our new digital utopia - everything recorded, saved, shared - is not free from loss. We've never been more connected, but each day every hyperlink is one day closer to becoming an Error 404 message. All connections will one day break. I've already linked Chris Baraniuk's lost article, thankfully preserved by the Wayback Machine. But an article linked within to frieze magazine's 'Loop Guru' wasn't so lucky.