Publication Details

Organ, M., Jones, S., Rice, A. & White, G. 2018, 'Catching 'tears in the rain': Blade Runner and the archiving of memory and identity', Australian Society of Archivists Conference: Archives in a Blade Runner Age: Identity & Memory, Evidence & Accountability, pp. 1-24.


Blade Runner presents the ultimate archival dilemma: to preserve or "retire" (dispose of) a sentient record. Beneath the Hollywood love story lays a dystopian view of the future wherein the line between human and humanoid is blurred through the existence of biorobotic androids known as replicants. Beyond this, new gadgets, systems and technologies dazzle in futuristic, though familiar, landscapes. And what do replicants, being human, EMP blackouts and origami have to do with archives? Answers reside in their present and possible relation to aspects of the world of the archivist in the modern era, as evidenced through technological innovation, the limitations and inherent fragility of electronic records, consideration of what is worth saving, and issues of identity. Beneath the perpetually drenched cityscape of Los Angeles 2019 and dust-bowl Las Vegas 2049, the Blade Runner concept reinforces the importance of the archival record and the archivist. Desktop and 3D technologies enable the transformation of archival items into digital files, and virtual reality (VR) provides the same opportunity for historical environments and objects. The rapid development of human-focused robotics and neurotechnologies present the archivist with unforeseen challenges, as exemplified by Blade Runner's fictional 2022 replicant revolt which sought to destroy all identifying records. In a world of artificial intelligence, Rick Deckard's "Memories, you're talking about memories" defines the archival mission in areas of preservation, disposal and access. This article analyses themes present in the Blade Runner universe and considers their reflection upon, and connection to, the evolving role of the archivist.