Course details




This webpage works in conjunction with the course syllabus, providing additional information about assignments, requirements, expectations, resources, and models for the topics explored in class. Course changes will appear on this webpage. Taught: Fall 2008


Course components may include individual and/or collaborative projects, exams, attendance, and participation. Course components are separate yet integrally interconnected. Success in each is required for overall success.

Final grades

Information about final grades . . .

Goals and objectives

WSU and Creative Media & Digital Culture (CMDC) program learning goals associated with this course . . .
WSU Learning Goals . . .
CMDC Program Learning Goals . . .

Defining terms


An archive refers to an organized collection of records or cultural artifacts (which may be fixed on any media), as well as the location in which these records are kept. Archives can be considered either "information" generated as a by product of human activity, or as specifically authored information products.

Archiving, then, is the process, the practice, of collecting, preserving, organizing, managing, and adding value to a grouping of information or artifacts.

Historically, archives were well developed by the ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. Modern archiving is generally seen as having its roots in the French Revolution. The French National Archives was created in 1790 during the French Revolution from various government, religious, and private archives seized by the revolutionaries. This archival collection is perhaps the largest in the world, with records dating back to A.D. 625.

Archives may take many approaches to their structure and operation. Three examples are . . .

  • Store (acquire artifacts; process them)
  • Manage (acquire, process, store artifacts securely, make artifacts accessible to users)
  • Archive (acquire, process, make accessible, retention of artifacts in collection, migration of artifacts to new contexts as necessary)

These and other archives are focused on preserving paper artifacts, in their original state, and making them available, in some way, to everyone who can pull some value from these artifacts. So, a big concern for archives is the preservation and protection of the original artifact.

Digital archives relieve some of this pressure in that users can access digital facsimile copies of the original artifacts. But, if the digital archival media suffers physical damage then the information they contain may be lost. So, a big focus of digital archiving is also protection and preservation.


An archivist is a professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to information determined to have long-term value. The information maintained by an archivist can be any form of media (photographs, video or sound recordings, letters, documents, electronic records, etc.)

Preservation of document, pictures, recordings, digital content, etc., is a major aspect of archival science.

New discoveries in the fields of media preservation and emerging technologies require continuing education as part of an archivist's job in order to stay current in the profession.


Curator is Latin and means "guardian" or "overseer."

A curator of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., archive, gallery, library, museum or garden) is a person who cares for the institution's collections and their associated collections catalogs. The object of a curator's concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.

The role of the curator will encompass: collecting objects, making provision for the effective preservation, conservation, interpretation, documentation and cataloging, research and display of the collection; and to make them accessible to the public.

Here is a job announcement for a curator. Note the special skills and experiences sought in candidates

The Henry Ford Associate Curator of Technology

The Henry Ford seeks a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and dynamic individual with a proven track record to join a committed team of intellectually curious colleagues as the Associate Curator of Technology. The Associate Curator of Technology helps manage, develop, research, and interpret The Henry Ford world-class collections relating to the American history of technology dating from the 17th century to the digital age and relating those to program and exhibit development, as well as other relevant initiatives at The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford is the history destination that brings the American Experience to life and is comprised of Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford IMAX Theater, Benson Ford Research Center, Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and Henry Ford Academy.

The Associate Curator of Technology must possess a deep and broad understanding of significant American objects, stories, and lives that are relevant to the programming and collecting initiatives of The Henry Ford.

  • Develops detailed knowledge and understanding of major collection areas and keeps abreast of the latest scholarship on historical and material culture issues relating to the collection.
  • Identifies key artifacts for acquisition by the institution through the active cultivation of donors and other potential sources.
  • Responsible for cataloguing collections in a timely manner.
  • Guides conservation, collections management, and registrars to prioritize and recommend treatments based on exhibit needs and program use.
  • Recommends objects for exhibit and program use, ensuring accuracy, authenticity, and accessibility.
  • Responsible for development of creative work which includes, but is not limited to, publications in any medium, product and program development and design, and all related collateral materials.
  • Instrumental in developing content for program and exhibition planning according to initiative parameters; serves as the institution's content expert on that topic; develops the topic report for which the content of exhibits and associated products are based.
  • Collaborates on the development of public programs, Village installations and products in all venues; creates written manuals and trains interpretive staff for new and/or revised programs.
  • Serves as an institutional spokesperson for a variety of subjects and collection areas; offers lectures, tours, and/or classes as required.
  • Positions the institution as a nationally significant leader in the historical and museum fields by publishing on collections, exhibits, and/or areas of expertise; developing symposia and participating in panels and conferences; consulting with other institutions.

Requires a Bachelor's degree (minimum) in American History, the History of Technology, or related field; knowledge of American social and cultural history from the 17th century to the present; knowledge of the history of American technology, with an emphasis on communications and information technology; and knowledge of American material culture. Requires a minimum three years' professional experience (curatorial or related experience preferred); excellent writing, editing, and verbal communications skills required.


Curating is the process of identification and organization of artworks or other cultural objects in a collection in order to further knowledge. It includes verification and additions to the existing documentation for objects.

Curating is the process of examining, testing and selecting information to go in a collection database. Typically this adds considerably to the value of a database, but is very labor intensive.

Curating is the selection of specific objects and then arranging them to tell a story. So, curating is about narrative.

Digital Curating—Models

Models for curating a collection of cultural objects include:
  • Hypertext and Spatial Model
    The now familiar hypertext and spatial models (Gibson's Cyberspace, Stephenson's Metaverse, David Gelernter's Mirror Worlds, Marilyn Cooper's interactive landscapes of words and data, and "zoom-and-bloom" information interfaces like Inxight's Site Lens) should, according to Scott McCloud, emerge as the two great pillars of information organization (231). Others would argue that the now familiar (they might say too familiar, even boring) "point and click" metaphor for evoking hyper-spatial interaction is long past its usefulness and serves only as a placeholder for the future.
  • Coordination Model
    With this model, the emphasis is on coordinating multimedia representations of physical artifacts for viewing in differing contexts by a geographically expanded audience relocated distant to the traditional, physical museum. Web-based collocation is an obvious example of how this model might be applied to the curation of digital works produced for "the new screen."
  • Individualized and Mobile Model
    Traditional curation has often involved the orientation of artifacts with regard to perceived characteristics of a target audience comprised of "art patrons." Curation for new, mobile screen technologies may involve the reorientation of artifacts away from the notion of an "abstract" public, or audience, toward the individualized and mobile consumer. Art on demand could be one result from this model.
  • Branding Model
    Traditional archives and museums have often used dynamic strategies, including multimedia, to create and maintain a voluable mediated and distributed presence for the artifacts in their collections. Curating for new, mobile screen technologies may involve such branding attempts, but they might be conducted in ways and through means that are at once distributed, semantic, individualized and mobile.
  • Spiderweb Model
    In traditional curatorial efforts, one is directed to specific artifacts through a number of channels and modes based on user activities. Such a user-driven approach would seem to transfer easily to a new, mobile screen context.

Digital Archival Structure

Once the digital archive is physically secure and readily available to all interested users, the next challenge is to create an interface that allows users to access all the contents (which may be text, graphics, video, audio, etc). Two methodologies for accomplishing this task are outlined below.

Encoded Archival Description

Encoded Archival Description is an XML standard for encoding archival finding aids, maintained by the Library of Congress in partnership with the Society of American Archivists. EAD originated in 1993, at the University of California, Berkeley. The project's goal was to create a standard for describing collections held by archives and special collections, similar to the MARC standards for describing regular books. Such a standard enables museums, libraries, and manuscript repositories to list and describe their holdings in a manner that would be machine-readable and therefore easy to search, maintain, exchange.


Metadata is, simply defined, information (data) about a particular content of a larger collection of information (database). Therefore, metadata is information (data) about information (data). Metadata is used to facilitate the understanding, utilization, and management of data (information).

Depending on its context of use, and the type of data it describes, metadata may vary. For example, the metadata describing a library's collection of science fiction books may be quite different than the metadata describing a collection of photographic portraits. Metadata for the former might include author name, book title, publisher, publication date, and description of content. Metadata for the latter might include photographer name, subject name, print size, date the original photograph was taken, camera settings, date the print was produced, and details of its production.

In both examples, note that the metadata must be at a higher level of abstraction than the data (information) it describes. Metadata "Author Name," for example, is an abstraction of "John Barber." The metadata "Print Size" is at a higher level of abstraction than "11 x 14''.

This allows for an expansion of a definition for metadata, which now can be seen as structured, encoded data (information) that describe the characteristics of information-bearing entities. Metadata thus can facilitate the identification, discovery, assessment, and management of that data (information) it describes.

Such hierarchical arrangements, or relationships between data and metadata are more properly called an "ontology" or "schema" because they describe what exists in order to facilitate some purpose or to enable some action. For example, the subject headings in a library catalog (metadata about the library's collection of books and other holdings) serve as both guides to finding books on the library shelves as well as what exists in the library collection (its ontology) and how descriptions of these items (metadata) are derived from the more general subject headings.

The difference between data and metadata can be confusing. For example, the headline of an article is both its title (metadata) and part of its text (data). The headline is thus both simultaneously data and metadata.

Data and metadata can also change roles. For example, a poem is data (information) but when the poem is sampled in a song lyric then the same poem can be considered metadata for the song lyric.

Despite these, and other confusions and criticisms, metadata can be useful as a guide to finding specific items or resources. In this case metadata is often expressed as a set of keywords that describe either the resource itself (name and size of data) or the content of the resource ("an interactive version of the poem 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner'"). Such metadata resides either with the resource, or in some detached, often external storage site.

With regard to a repository of digital data, there are three categories of metadata: descriptive, structural, and administrative.

Descriptive metadata provides information about the content of the information object, finding aids, or other schema, like bibliographic records, that can be used to facilitate search and retrieval.

Structural metadata ties an information object to others in order to create a logical information unit, like how individual pages make up a book.

Administrative metadata facilitates the management of the information object, or controls its access. This could include information about its copyright, storage format, and long-term preservation/utilization.

Criticism of metadata notes that because it is expensive and time-consuming to produce neither corporate or private users are inclined to create metadata on their own. Current lack of automatic tools for creating metadata is also a detriment.

Even if metadata is created, it is subjective and dependent on context or application.

And since there is no end to metadata (as we have seen, by definition metadata is data about data. Therefore, it is possible to create metadata about metadata ad infinitum), the usefulness of the original information resource may be quickly buried by the amount of metadata associated with its description.

Despite these criticisms, metadata may be most useful for archiving the new screen. For example, The Electronic Literature Organization is making preliminary attempts to define and categorize different kinds of electronic literature. Could this be a model for archiving and providing metadata about artifacts created for the new screen?

Metadata could be used to help represent knowledge by showing connections between separate bits of information.

Metadata could be used to inform future viewers how they might best access the artifact after it has been orphaned by technological advancement and new state of the art.

Archival Informatics

Archival informatics is the study of systems and technology in archives and how they have affected the nature and use of archives.

Media Description Lifespan
Hard Disks Hard disks consist of magnetic platters that spin at high speeds while reading or writing data. Due to the velocity, hard disks tend to suffer from physical degradation within a period of three years or so. 3 to 6 years
Magnetic Tapes Magnetic tape drives are the chosen backup media for enterprise storage. Their resilience, large storage capacity (1 terabyte or more) and fast writing speeds make them suitable for archiving large amounts of data quickly. 10 to 20 years
Magnetic Disks Used for temporary storage and transport of data, discs like Iomega's Zip and Castlewood's Orb are cheap, their capacity and usability value decent. But their physical and data degradation is faster than other media since they are more adversely affected by conditions like high temperatures. 1 to 5 years
Optical Discs CD-ROM, CD-R, DVD-ROM and DVD-R are popular optical storage media but their durability varies due to difference in their protective coating—CD-R's tend to have a shorter lifespan of ten years while the denser, more expensive DVD usually last anywhere from 70 to a 100 years due to the high quality of their dye coat. 10 to 100 years
Static Memory Devices like thumb drives and Compact Flash cards utilize static, non-moving RAM for storing data. Their inert nature makes them expensive but protection from constant wear-and-tear affects also makes them less prone to physical degradation than movable media, giving them a longer product life. 50 to 100 years




Digital Futures: Strategies for the Information Age
Deegan, Marilyn and Simon Tanner
London: Library Association Publishing, 2002
ISBN: 1-55570-437-9
Read an online review HERE

From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in the Networked World
Borgman, Christine L.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-262-02473-X
Read an online review HERE

The Mirage of Continuity: Reconfiguring Academic Information Resources for the 21st Century
Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources and the Association of American Universities, 1998
Read a review online HERE

Moving Theory into Practice: Digital Imaging for Libraries and Archives
Kenny, Anne R. and Oya Y. Rieger, editors
Mountain View, CA: Research Libraries Group, 2000
ISBN: 0-9700225-006
Read an online review HERE

A Modern Archives Reader: Basic Readings on Archival Theory and Practice
Daniels, Maygene F. and Timothy Walch
National Archives Trust Fund Board/U.S. General Services Administration. Washington, DC. 1984
The archive has of late proven to be a powerful metaphor: history is viewed as an archive of facts from which one can draw at will; our bodies have become a genetic archive since being digitally opened up in the human genome project; our language is an archive of meanings that can be unlocked using philological tools; and the unconscious is an archive of the traumatic experiences that mold our identity. More and more artists and architects are developing software systems in which data is automatically organized into complex knowledge systems, a process in which the user is only one of the determining factors.

Notes from selected essays in this book . . .

  • Ernst Posner ("Some Aspects of Archival Development Since the French Revolution") traces the history of the development of archiving in Europe, especially the role of archives in national administrations, as they influence archival practice in America, and especially the basic archival principals of provenance and original order.
  • Archives administration established as "a specialized branch of public service" following the French Revolution (8)
  • Archival theory, based on the desire to preserve and present business documents in their original order and state (so that they correspond to their original administrative unit), may hamper their use for research (11).
Hilary Jenkinson ("Reflections of an Archivist")
  • Lists five features common among ALL archives:
    1. Archives come together by a natural process—"they are there: a physical part of the fact which has happened to survive" (18)
    2. Archives are normally used by posterity for purposes quite different from those which caused their compilation; assumptions made from historical documents most probably never considered by those who created them (18).
    3. Safe to assume that historical archives were not made with the intention of deceiving us. Therefore, we can be assured of the authenticity and impartiality of any documents found within that archive. Furthermore, the relation of any one document to another in that archive, as evidenced by its relation to other documents can provide some interpretation of its role in that relationship (18).
    4. Although the ranks of archivists include many amateurs and part-time devotees, there is no reason to suspect that their efforts are any less proficient than the full-time practitioner (18-19).
    5. So long as writing continues in common use within the affairs of business and everyday life, and since there very few activities in the modern state that do not produce writings, no line of inquiry "can afford to ignore the possibilities of research in archives" (19). In short, there will always be a need for, and the practice of archiving.
  • An archive makes no attempt to interpret or convince: "it just tells us" provided "it has come to us in exactly the same state in which its original creators left it" (20).
  • The one, supreme, job of an archivist then is to hand on the archive in nearly as possible its original state, without adding or taking away, preserving its original quality, "while at the same time permitting and facilitating handling and use" (20).
T. R. Schellenberg ("Archival Principles of Arrangement")
Two basic principals of arrangement (150)
  1. "Principle of Provenance": archives should be arranged according to their source
  2. "Principle of Order": archives should be arranged according to their source
Two things to be accomplished by arranging records (151)
  1. Preserve their evidential values
  2. Make them accessible for use: necessary to arrange records so they can be described effectively. Arrangment should facilitate description of records
Other factors influencing archival arrangement
  • Acquisition
  • Arrangement
  • Description
  • Reference (Findability)



  • "Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians"
    Published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor in the Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • The Third Culture: A Rule of the Game: A Talk with Hans Ulrich Obrist
    These are exhibitions which are not material, but which are more virtual, virtual in the sense of them always being able to be reactualized. They can be revisited and reactualized and updated, and they are also not related to a place. The exhibition can go to where the viewer is. We are in the very early days of understanding how the Internet can be used for exhibitions.
  • Banff International Curatorial Institute
    Symposia, think-tanks, exhibitions, and publications. Research opportunities (residencies and workshops) and training (work study).
  • "What Is A Curator?"
    Information provided by the James A. Michner Art Museum
  • "The Digital Curator in Your Future"
    Author Steve Rubel argues that content is everywhere, all the time, and more is on the way. Content is a commodity, with a downside, because it will quickly become a glut. Digital curators can help. They are identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts. "As the content universe expands and floods niches, there will always be a market for Digital Curators. The key for brands, individuals and media companies will be to identify those niches where they have deep expertise and to become the best in the world at serving them. I guarantee if you do this well and consistently, your long-term success is essentially guaranteed. And even if you do not have the energy to become a curator, you will certainly be influenced them."
  • "More on the Digital Curator"
    A nice follow-up to Steve Rubel's article "The Digital Curator in Your Future" (see above), this posting by Jeff Cobb on the "Mission to Learn" blog connects curating with instructional design and provides an interesting list of specific skills required of curators.
  • "What Is A Museum Curator?"
    Author Sheri Cyprus answers the question in a straight-forward manner. Links to related questions are provided. Part of the wiseGEEK website.


Curating New Media
Sarah Cook, et. al.
Baltic 2002
ISBN-10: 1903655064

Narrative paraphrased from the book:
Vuk Cosic: "Curatorial decisions are usually made in such a way that they are there to justify the hardware investment and are not the reflection of any understanding" [of artifacts under curation, the artists who created them, or the audience for which they are intended] (14)

Sarah Cook: However, it may be best to first ask "What does the artist need?" and not think so much about the hardware. Figure out what the artist needs to have her work shown properly and figure out how to meet that need (43)

Hannah Redler: When people come to museums and art galleries—are they looking for a curated, edited experience? (35)

Matthew Gansallo: How does one collect and curate and archive online works? (71)

Pamela Wells: Is there any way one can curate websites? Is there a way to bridge the experience of the artist/designer creating a website for the private experience of an individual user to a public showing of websites in a gallery setting? (40)

Tamas Banovich: How best to present works made on a computer essentially for one-to-one experience? A dedicated computer for each piece? (51)

Vuk Cosic: Online work is essentially a broadcast medium. Museums want people to come through the doors, be physically present to see the works (79)

Julian Stallabrass: Problem: taking works created for the web out of the web does a great deal to destroy those works (41)

Julian Stallabrass: Question of control: if we curate web works how do we prevent viewers from leaving those works and going elsewhere on the web? Do we want this control? Is it necessary to the effective showing of the work? (41)

Vuc Cosic: "When you show online stuff in a gallery space, which is not online, you essentially put it in the wrong place. It's not at home. It's not where it is supposed to be. It's decontextualized; it's shown in a glass test-tube. So whatever you do is just an attempt to make it look more alive." (42)

Mark Tribe: One solution may be to have artists make works that bridge the gap between the virtual and physical worlds (146)

Vuc Cosic: If the actual curating of online work is done online then it is done by everyone who views or uses that work in some way. This is called "links." Drawing attention to these works in some way encourages viewers to visit the links you have provided (42-43)

Tamas Banovich: Presentation (encounter) = success. The space and the arrangement of the work and the way you present it is fundamental in influencing how it is received and understood (47)

Tamas Banovich: No special challenge dealing with digital art because, just as with any other work, you, as the curator, "have to understand the work, the ideas, the intention of the artist and then find a specific way to exhibit the work without forcing a curatorial idea on it" and in a way that communicates the ideas behind the work through the medium of its exhibition (52)

Matthew Gansallo: The curatorial challenge = how to create balance (70)

Beryl Graham: Do audiences exist for new media? Do people want to see works created on and for viewing on computers? (88)

Tamas Banovich: Education will help grow an audience. Tell audience what they are seeing, why it is important, etc. (88)

Tamas Banovich: Education provided by artists who make new media art. They explain their work, medium, efforts, etc. (88)

Iliyan Nedkova: [Echoing Beryl Gramham's questions:] How do we show new media work to people? Computers? Galleries? Other contexts/environments? (101)

Iliyan Nedkova: The major principle of new media = variability (102)

Iliyan Nedkova: The curator's role is to make new media art communicable, mediative, and manageable (102)

Mark Tribe: The curator's role is to act as a producer, facilitator, someone who helps artists realize their ideas (148)

Iliyan Nedkova: But, the roles may be changing as we move toward a convergence and swapping of roles and relationships between artists, curators, and audiences (104)

Iliyan Nedkova: Curators as guides can help audiences filter through sea of data being produced and refined daily; help audiences get to important issues of work (109)

Peter Ride: But, are curators really relevant (needed) if artists can present their own work on line? Do curators provide other benefits the artist cannot? (133)

Mark Tribe: Online work, net art, provides direct access to audiences. No need for gatekeepers like curators? (138)

Mark Tribe: Important to start archiving net art. But how? As "linked objects" stored as metadata, information about the work, or as "cloned objects," copies of the work itself that can be periodically updated as technologies for their viewing or interaction change? (142)

Mark Tribe: Three preservation strategies: 1). documentation of the work, 2). migration of the work to evoling software or hardware so that its stays current, 3). emulation of the work through the reproduction of its orginal software state (142-143)

Mark Tribe: Filtering versus curating: the traditional paradigm of curating is creating few content artifacts from many potential sources and then publishing the results in some way (exhibitions, etc) so that other people can see. Filtering involves multiple streams of potential artifacts, all of which are available in some way; creating a many-to-many communication environment (145)

Mark Tribe: Art curators versus archival librarians: archivists are obsessed with consistency and compatibility; want patrons to be able to search across the holdings of multiple libraries and archives in a standardized way, with predictable results. On the other hand, people do not always think in the ways (categories) devised by archival librarians so the problem becomes how to match the way librarians index with the way other people index (for example on various current social networking web sites) (149)

Mark Tribe: Digital divide = access to net art or online archives is limited by race, class, and socio-economic barriers. We must think of ways to bridge these barriers (150)

Pamela Wells: Need to question existing curatorial models, "Why are we doing this?", "How are we doing this?" Artists and curators need to collaborate to question traditional models and to develop new ones (186)

Curating Immateriality
Joasia Krysa
Autonomedia 2006
ISBN-10: 1570271739
Reflects on the changes the Internet has stimulated for art curation and examines the work of the curator in relation to a wider socio-political context. Articulated through two key issues, immateriality and network systems, this book considers how the practice of curating has been transformed by distributed networks beyond the rhetoric of free software and open systems. Because the site of curatorial production has been expanded to include the space of the Internet, the focus of curatorial attention has been extended from the object to processes to dynamic network systems, multiple agents and software. This upgraded "operating system" of art presents new possibilities of online curating that is collective and distributed "even a self-organizing system that curates itself. The curator is part of this entire system but not central to it. The subtitle of the book makes reference to the essay "The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetic Systems" (1988), in which Bill Nichols considered how cybernetics transformed cultural production. He emphasised the shift from mechanical reproduction (symbolised by the camera) to that of cybernetic systems (symbolised by the computer) in relation to the political economy, and pointed to contradictory tendencies inherent in these systems: "the negative, currently dominant, tendency toward control, and the positive, more latent potential toward collectivity." The book continues this general line of inquiry in relation to curating, and extends it by considering how power relations and control are expressed in the context of network systems and immateriality. In relation to network systems, the emphasis remains on the democratic potential of technological change but also the emergence of what appears as more intensive forms of control. Can the same be said of curating in the context of distributed forms? If so, what does this imply for software curating beyond the rhetoric of free software and open systems? The third book in the DATA Browser series of critical texts that explore issues at the intersection of culture and technology.

Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating
Steven Rand and Header Kouris, editors
Apexart 2007
ISBN-10: 1933347104
Ten international art related professionals consider the increased influence of independent curators and cultural producers and how the role of the curator has changed over the last ten years. Using examples from past exhibitions and personal experiences, the writers address how working within an institution differs from being independent, the difficulties of balancing artistic vision with expectations of funders and institutions, and the ethical issues of working with artists and collectors, among many other subjects. A resource text for students and others interested in the curatorial field, Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating provides valuable and interesting reading for students considering a curatorial career and others interested in current trends in today's art world.

Curating Now: Imaginative Practice/Public Responsibility
Paula Marincola, editor
Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, 2002
ISBN-10: 0970834608
In a time which one critic characterized recently as "the era of the curator," it is not only relevant but absolutely necessary to thoroughly question the current state of curatorial practice, its professional values, and the assumptions implicit in them. Curating Now gathers together the thoughts of a diverse group of internationally recognized, influential curators, comments presented for the benefit and examination of their peers at a weekend-long symposium held in October 2000. Questions regarding curatorial power and authorship, as well as how external pressures and challenges shape exhibitions, were addressed by participants including Robert Storr, Senior Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Thelma Golden, Deputy Director of exhibitions, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Curator, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate Gallery, London.

Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance
Judith Rugg and Michele Sedgwick, eds.
Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2007
ISBN 978-1-84150-162-8
I reviewed this book for Leonardo Reviews May 2008.
Read that review here.

Curating Media/Net/Art
Sabine Hochrieser, Michael Kargl (a.k.a. carlos katastrofsky), Franz Thalmair, eds.
Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt [Herstellng und Verlag], Vienna, 2007
ISBN: 978-3-8370-0880-7
Learn more online, HERE

An Archival Experiment

An archive would seem to be, at any time, of a variable nature.
  • An archive is a storage space, a place to put infrequently used records, deep storage, the last stop before disposal . . .
  • An archive is "information" generated as a by product of human activity—business correspondence and records, for example . . .
  • An archive is a specifically authored information product—The Brautigan Bibliography and Archive, for example. . .
  • An archive is a collection, of any kind—essays collected in a book, for example . . .

The common theme in these definitions is that an archive refers to a collection (whether historical records or cultural artifacts), the location in which this collection is kept, and the information/knowledge experience potential in that collection.

No matter the scale, an archive should function, on one hand, as the adaptive site of public education and democratic access, and, on the other, serve as an enduring and sacral repository for precious objects (Haidee Wilson. "Every Home an Art Museum." Residual Media. Charles R. Acland, editor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. 164.).

An archive can be as grand as a palace, or as personal as a photograph. In either case, the archive, and its potential to transform information into knowledge, is only realized through encounter.

So, an experiment. Below is information about four videos originally "published" on YouTube. Each video deals with how accessibility resulting from Web 2.0 technologies/capabilities are changing the way we deal with information; or how information is changing us. How might we archive these four videos so that we organize, manage, and add value to them as a collection of information artifacts?

One way is to organize them in a logical narrative structure: beginning, middle, end. I have done this below, and provided curatorial statements for each, in order to provide context, and connection. The collection makes some sense in this arrangement but it is really in the encounter that the archive works, or not. What do you think? Does the encounter with the archival structure work? Is there a different way in which this collection might be encountered?

The first video is "Information Revolution," by Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University, in which he argues that information has traditionally been considered a "thing," found in a logical place (on a shelf, in a file system, in a category). Managing information required experts. And despite their best efforts, information is still hard to find.

Digital information has no material form and so we no longer need complex hierarchies. Trillions of links provide web users with millions of potential information paths; access to more information than was ever created by the experts. And we organize this information ourselves, without material constraints. The new order of order is that everything is miscellaneous. We no longer find information, we can make it find us. It's an information revolution and the responsibility for control is on us. Are we ready?

Watch this video on YouTube.

The second video, "The Machine is Us/ing Us," also by Michael Wesch, conceptually, seems to follow the points raised in "Information Revolution." Wesch suggests the web (also called Web 2.0, The Machine) exists only as a function of the people who use and populate its virtual spaces and potentials, its shape and structure defined by the way we use the information amassed there. In this sense, Web 2.0 is an archive, one that learns how to organize itself based on how users interact with the available information.

Watch this video on YouTube.

An earlier, version of this video is available HERE.

The third video is a response to Wesch's ideas, presented in the same manner as Wesch's original video. The author makes the valid point that the issues addressed by the blogosphere are, really, non-issues, not the ones that really affect the lives of people. In conclusion, the author wonders whether "we will use Web 2.0 to further distance ourselves from others, or will we actually come together as Professor Wesch implies?" Unfortunately, this video is no longer available on YouTube.

The fourth video is another response to Wesch. Here the author, "CoryTheRaven," argues that the Internet, is, despite what Wesch says, essentially non-participatory; it simply simulates, through text and movies, "the natural interaction between us and the world." Our efforts to make the Internet seem more and more interactive will lead, eventually, to "increasingly sophisticated pseudo-sensory simulations of the full sensory participatory reality." In the meantime, with Web 2.0, we are simply trying to make the printed word "imitate what we already experience every day."

Watch this video on YouTube.

Example Archives

Information Portal Archives

  • Wikipedia
    The world's largest free content encyclopedia and certainly most unique in that it is being built through the collaborative functions of its community of users. Perhaps you have even helped by entering or editing an entry, or more fundamentally, simply moving through the information, teaching the structure what connects to what, and how. (For current information on the "Size of Wikipedia," see HERE; For statistics, see HERE)
  • NASA-Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
    During the 1966-1967 Lunar Orbiter Program five unmanned spacecraft where placed in orbit around the moon. The assignment: photograph the moon's surface and features to help determine potential landing sites for the planned Apollo missions. At the end of each mission, the Lunar Orbiters were crashed into the moon's surface so they would present no navigation or communication problems to the later Apollo missions. Together, these spacecraft returned photographs of 99% of the moon's surface (near and far) with resolution down to 1 meter. These photographs have been archived for over forty years and are now being transferred from their original analog format to digital, with stunning results in image quality. In order for this transfer to take place, video tape technology for the 1960s had to be restored as well. The implications, that we must think about appropriate technology with which to interact with historical artifacts in the future, is compelling for archivists and curators. The story is exciting technoarchealogy. See also the Moon Views website which provides imagery and data for lunar exploration.
  • Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks, all produced by volunteers. Books and other literary items in the public domain are made available in digital versions that can be downloaded and read on personal digital assistants or smart phones. Over 25,000 free eBooks are available through Project Gutenberg's online book catalog. Over 100,000 books are avaible through Project Gutenberg's partners, affiliates, and resources.
  • Flickr
    Another huge archive built from user contributed photographs. Users can organize photographs in collections designed for specific interest groups. Photographs can also be organized according to location. Users can comment on individual photographs and even showcase specific portions of photographs they like. The archive is thus constantly updated by its users. (Submitted by Drew Rickman, Spring 2008)
  • Internet Archive Wayback Machine
    THE international Internet archive. Browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. View archived versions of web pages across time. Check out the featured Web Collections (for example: the comprehensive list of websites providing a historical record of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the massive relief effort which followed) or pursue your own search of past websites.
  • Foxfire
    A not-for-profit educational and literary organization that uses a learner-centered, community-based approach to promote a sense of place and appreciation of local people, community, and culture as essential educational tools within the Applachian region of northern Georgia.
  • ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
    A museum, library and archive dealing with the subject of animation for the use of researchers, students, artists and the general public.
  • Artcyclopdia: The Guide to Great Art on the Internet
    A comprehensive index of every artist represented at hundreds of museum sites, image archives, and other online resources. Media included are painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, installation art, video, digital and web-based art, folk art/outsider art, and architecture. (Submitted by Drew Rickman, Spring 2008)
  • Early Office Museum
    Focuses on on the history and evolution of offices, antique office machines and equipment, and business technology using original documents, artifacts, and vintage photographs. Offers several online exhibits. (Submitted by Randy Holland, Spring 2008)
  • The American Presidency Project
    Provides information for every United States President (letters, speeches, messages, and papers) as well as audio and video archives for every president since Herbert Hoover, the presidents of the media age. Contains over 84,602 documents related to the study of the Presidency.

Library Archives

  • Library of Congress Web Archives
    Collections of archived web sites selected by subject specialists to represent web-based information on a designated topic. It is part of a continuing effort by the Library to evaluate, select, collect, catalog, provide access to, and preserve digital materials for future generations of researchers.
  • ibiblio: The Public's Library and Digital Archive
    A collaboration between the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, ibiblio is a conservancy of freely available information, including software, music, literature, art, history, science, politics, and cultural studies. This is not your average library, however. Users anywhere can access the library information, critique it, expand it, or create and manage a new collection based on their own interest. (Submitted by Racheal Oreskovich, Fall 2008)
  • Digital Collections: Washington State University
    Includes historical materials from around the Northwest. Features map collections, oral history interviews, photographs, texts, and video.
  • WSU Vancouver Library Pacific Northwest/Local History Resources
    A webpage featuring many links to comprehensive digital databases, archives, and other resources. A wonderful resource when you start thinking about developing your own digital archive.
  • UCLA Online Campaign Literature Archive
    UCLA has been collecting local Los Angeles and California state campaign websites since 1998. These websites are publically available. See especially the section on Copyright and Takedown.
  • Our Digital Island: A Tasmanian Web Archive
    Provides access to Tasmanian Web sites (including personal ones which is very interesting) that have been preserved for posterity by the State Library of Tasmania, which claims "a legislative and moral responsibility to preserve material currently published on the World Wide Web."
  • The Olympic Peninsula Community Museum
    A collaborative project between communities and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula and The University of Washington, this web-based museum and archive showcases the rich aspects of the history and culture of the region. A searchable archive of 12,000 images and artifacts. Resource information includes Planning, Image Selection, Permissions Documents, Scanning, Metadate Guidelines, and Non-Profit Photograph Sales Information. (Submitted by Randy Holland, Spring 2008)
  • New York Public Library Digital Gallery
    Provides access to over 600,000 images in several categories digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more. (Submitted by Nathan Miller, Spring 2008)
  • Alaska's Digital Archives
    A collaborative effort between the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Consortium Library at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the Alaska State Library in Juneau. The goal of the project is to support the instructional and research needs of Alaskans and others interested in Alaska history and culture. Initial activities focused on scanning, indexing, and placing 5,000 historical images into an online, searchable database. (Submitted by Veronica Nguyen, Spring 2008)

Legacy/Memory Preservation Archives

  • Denshõ: The Japanese-American Legacy Project
    A website focused on preserving the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. Includes an archive with more than 500 hours of interviews, visual histories, and over 8,000 historical images documenting Japanese American history. (Submitted by Nathan Miller, Spring 2008)
  • Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
    This partnership between George Mason University's Center for History and New Media, the University of New Orleans, the Smithsonian Institutions National Museum of American History, and others, uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital records of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Contributions are collected from survivors, first responders, relief workers, family, friends, and anyone with reflections on the hurricanes and their aftermath. (Submitted by Veronica Nguyen, Spring 2008)
  • The Sonic Memorial Project is an open archive and an online audio installation of the history of The World Trade Center that collects stories, ambient sounds, voicemails, and archival recordings to tell the rich history of the twin towers, the neighborhood and the events of 9/11.
  • 911 Archive
    A vast archive of images from the September 11 attack and its aftermath, assembled by Steven Rosenbaum, a Manhattan producer of documentaries. More than 500 hours of amateur film and video; 7,000 gigabytes; the largest collection of raw visual data captured at the moment and in the days following. The future of this archive is uncertain. Read a story in The New York Times about the 911 Archive HERE
  • The September 11 Digital Archive
    Uses more than 150,000 digital items to collect, preserve, and present the history of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. In September 2003, the Library of Congress accepted the Archive into its collections, an event that both ensured the Archive's long-term preservation and marked the library's first major digital acquisition. (Submitted by Mikhail Oparin, Spring 2008)
  • Parallel Worlds: September 11, 2001 Resource Area
    "Intended as a resource for those investigating matters surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 incidents, and other related events and developments." Based on a growing collection of circulating bookmarks.
  • 6 Billion Others
    A video portrait of humankind produced by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand who has asked more than 5,000 people in 75 countries the same questions: "Are you happy?", "How do you define love?", and "What would you like to change about your life"?. Answers are collected in this video and sound archive.

Ethnic History Archives

Sound Archives

More, shared resources here . . .

Food and Drink Archives

  • The Museum of the American Cocktail
    Cocktails may be defined as drinks made from any mixture of bitters, spirits, and sugar. The Museum of the American Cocktail focuses on the rich history of sophisticated cocktails served in America since Thomas Jefferson was president.
  • Facts about Chocolate
    From chocolate information to chocolate movies, chocolate quotes to chocolate gifts, this website strives to be and archive for all things chocolate. (Submitted by Julia Messmacher, Spring 2008)

People Archives

  • The Walter Scott Digital Archive
    Developed and maintained by the Edinburgh University Library, this archive focuses on the life and work of Sir Walter Scott. Includes information about Scott's biography, works, correspondence, images inspired by Scott and his works, and over 150 links to online resources devoted to aspects of the life and work of Scott. (Submitted by Rachel Oreskovich, Fall 2008)
  • Sherlock Holmes Collection
    This collection attempts to obtain and make available to as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, as much information about Sherlock Holmes stories and their creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, as possible. (Submitted by Tina Willhite, Fall 2008)

Personal Collection Archives

  • The Cook's: Where It Is Always Coca-Cola and Christmas
    A collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia started 14 years ago has grown to over 4,000 items and fills this couple's house. (Submitted by Trish Hughes, Fall 2008)
  • Buddy Holly, A Personal View
    Pete Moorcroft's personal collection of memorabilia associated with singer Buddy Holly and his band, "The Crickets." Photographs, albums, tours, school days, and much more—Moorcroft provides a category for each aspecit of Buddy Holly's life and career. (Submitted by Trish Huges, Fall 2008)

Miscellaneous but Very Interesting Archives

  • The Office of The President-Elect
    This archival website plans to provide not only a guide to the transition of President-Elect Barak Obama, but also an archive of that same process and its intersections with anyone interested to participate. The website solicits suggestions from US citizens about their vision for America, and lets them apply for a post with the new administration. A blog on the site will document the transition process, and elsewhere it plans to provide biographies and background on the people Mr Obama is recruiting. The site also wants US citizens to tell their stories about what Obama's campaign meant to them, and pass on their "vision" for what they would like to see happen in America.
  • Red Meat
    An archive of the weekly comic Red Meat. Every comic produced by Max Cannon over the past 12.5 years is included. An interesting experiment in usability/accessibility in that browsing through the archive means following strange strange titles for individual comics or a cast of odd characters who appear and reappear, rather than a more traditional chronological order. As a result, the user creates her own relationship with strange and serendipitious humor. (Submitted by Cara Cottingham, Fall 2008)
  • Found
    This unusual archive collects found stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles—anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. Anyone can submit their found objects. (Submitted by Chandler Wade, Spring 2008)
  • Kidofspeed—Ghost Town—Chernobyl Pictures: Elena's Motorcycle Ride through Chernobyl
    At 1:00 AM, 26 April 1986, the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, causing the worst nuclear disaster in history. Radiation was released into the air and measured around the world. Chernobyl was evacuated and the area surrounding the town, for miles in every direction, was closed, permanetly. Depending on the rate of decay of the radiation in Chernobyl, humans may begin inhabitating the area again in 300-900 years. Elena, a young Ukraine woman, rides her ninja motorcycle through Chernobyl, staying at the center of the roadways where the radiation is lower, and takes pictures of this ghost town. Her commentary, as a witness, is compelling, insightful, and unsettling. Her website is an interesting and unusual archive in that it not only chronicles the aftermath of a horrific disaster, but the inability of a political system to deal with the consequences of its folly.
  • The Easter Egg Archive
    Not what you think, these Easter Eggs are undocumented, hidden, entertaining content in software, video games, and movies. This website collects and describes thousands, and tells you how to see them for yourself. (Submitted by Veronica Nguyen, Spring 2008)
  • ODOT Photo Archive
    Photographs from the Ohio Department of Transportation covering a wide range of topics (Accidents to Wildflowers) for all counties in the state of Ohio. Certainly proof that any collection can, with the right curatorial touch, become an archive, capable of providing information and knowledge to viewers/users. (Submitted by Collin Rickman, Spring 2008)
  • The Speech Accent Archive
    Uniformly exhibits a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded. Designed for linguists and other people who wish to listen to and compare the accents of different English speakers. The archive is constructed by the Department of Linguistics at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, as a teaching and research tool. (Submitted by Wu Tsung-Lien, Spring 2008)

Project Ideas

Authenticity of the Record: A Central Concern for Archiving

Whether analog or digital, another big focus of archiving is assuring the authenticity of a record. How do we know a particular archival record is what it perports to be? How do we know that the archival record is an authentic copy of the original record?

So much of archiving is based in our history of dealing with paper. And so, questions . . .

  • What expectations do authors have for the preservation of their works?
  • What expectations do scholars have for the assurance of authenticity of archived works?

Archivists have, and continue, to take different approaches to address these questions.

One approach, based in our traditional history with paper, has been to observe the "original order" of the archived objects; to place objects in a collection in the order in which they were created, or received.

A different approach is to follow a more "conceptual order" based on individual needs of the archive user. What then becomes the role of the archivist?

In all cases, archivists follow rather specific steps during acquistion in order to assure authenticity . . .

  • Description/documentation of every step in the process of acquiring, processing, etc. a collection
  • Description of each element of a collection
  • Establishing criteria for testing authenticity of objects (or copies, in the case of new media works). This involves establishing broader descriptive guidelines and evidentary support that a record is what it purports to be

Analog vs. Digital :: Static vs. Moving

Where analog archives are inherently static and users must come to the archive, digital archives are mobile and can travel to the users, through various media (Kasdorf, William E., editor. The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. 305. ISBN 0231124996).

What does this mean for archiving?
See "Digital Curating—Working notes for an evolving paper" (above) for connections and ideas.

Hardware/software obsolescence means there is no guarantee that successful efforts today will be successful in the future. How to deal with this problem?

  • Describing/documenting every step in the process of acquiring, processing, etc. of a collection
  • Describing each element of a collection
  • Establishing and utilizing criteria for testing the authority of copies—broader descriptive guidelines—authenticity must be suppoted by evidence that a record is what it purports to be

Control vs. Chaos

Librarians and other professional archivists want control.

New forms of digital media and art may require that we embrace chaos when talking about or pursuing the archiving of artifacts.

Is there a Role for Entertainment in Archiving and Curating?; Are Archiving and Curating about Entertainment?

Notes from Timeline (Crichton, Michael. 442-443, 480)

  • What is the dominant mode of experience?
  • How do people expect to see things?
  • In every field, from business to politics to marketing to education, the dominant mode is entertainment.
  • Everybody expects to be entertained, all the time. Business meetings must be snappy, with bulleted lists and animated graphics. Shopping experiences must be engaging, so they amuse as well as sell us. Politicians must have pleasing video personalities, and tell us what we want to hear. Students expect to be amused with the speed and complexity of television; Schools must comply. Everyone must be amused or they will switch: switch brands, switch channels, switch parties, switch loyalties.
  • Rather than saved, improved, freed, or educted, everyone wants to be amused. The great fear is not death or disease, but boredom: a sense of time on our hands, of nothing to do, that we are not amused.
  • When people get tired of entertainment, they switch to participatory activities, structured fun, planned activites, reality scenarios.
  • When the artifice becomes too noticable, they switch, again, to authenticity, anything not devised or structured for profit, not controlled by a corporation, anything that exists for its own sake, assumes its own shape.
  • Of course, nothing in the modern world is untouched, nothing is authentic.
  • So, people look to the past, to history.
  • History is not a dispassionate record of dead events, nor a playground for scholars to indulge their theoretical games or trivial disputes.
  • The purpose of history is to explain the present, to say why the world is the way it is. History tells us what is important in our world, and how it came to be. History tells us why the things we value are the things we should value. And it tells us what is to be ignored, or discarded.
  • That is power, true power: the power to define a whole society.

My thoughts now . . . For these reasons historical archives are popular (see examples elsewhere on this page)

Historical archives educate, but they also entertain. Is the role of archiving and curating then entertainment?

How might we construct an historical archive that both preserves and educates regarding the past, but also provides entertainment and inspiration for the present and future?

More specifically, how would you create an historical archive (of any kind) focusing on your life, or that of your family, given the considerations for the importance of entertainment noted above?

Archiving, Curating, Interdisciplinarity, and Transliteracy

Transliteracy is a field of inquiry currently being pioneered by Sue Thomas (Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, United Kingdom; see the website HERE).

Thomas and her colleagues define transliteracy as "the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, television, radio, and film to digital social networks."

Transliteracy is, then, interdisciplinary in that it combines components and/or ideas from several different fields in new ways to provide a new prospective on a particular line of inquiry. (This is different from multidisciplinary which simply combines multiple fields of study; the economics of social networking, for example.)

Transliteracy, as an interdisciplinary study, disrupts the former linear orientation of any one particular form of literacy as it gives way to chaotic social networks.

Transliteracy might also be seen as a form of archiving. And here the interesting questions begin . . .

  • Is archiving interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, or transdisciplinary?
  • How, and why, is archiving any one of these, some combination, or all of these approaches?
  • How are these approaches different from one another?
  • Going back to the idea of transliteracy, what can we archive?
    • Media of all kinds (print, images, sound, etc)?
    • Recording technologies?
    • Telling and/or hearing technologies?
    • Other stuff?
    • How about live experience?
  • From the perspective of transliteracy, what IS an archive?
    • Is an archive storage?
    • Is an archive about telling and/or hearing something for education or entertainment or historical rememberance or future place fixing?
  • What is the FORM of an archive?
  • What is the CONTENT of an archive?
  • Do FORM and CONTENT determine each other; or are they separate, unique?
  • When we engage with an archive, is that engagement about the EXPERIENCE of the archive, or the OBJECT(S) of the archive?
  • Or, do we have an experience WITH object(s)?

Unity in color and font styles; variety in photo and text sizes
Color used to identify sections; or affect mood (cool colors are calming, warmer colors promote action)
"Focal points" provide visual impact / interest

Works and Life Archive

A collection / narration based around the works and life of a particular artist/writer/performer/person. For an example, see Brautigan Bibliography and Archive HERE

Information Portal / Resource

A collection of all aspects of information about or resources related to a particular subject, like "Foxfire" (see above).

Copyright / Fair Use / Creative Commons

More, shared resources here . . .

In addition to obtaining permissions from rights holders, how should we consider copyright, when, for example, archival efforts and acquisitions include personal / publically available websites?

Both the UCLA Online Campaign Literature Archive and the Our Digital Island: A Tasmanian Web Archive (see above, under "Archive Examples") do this, and both have policies for takedown and exclusion of specific personal websites at the owner's / creator's request.

More generally, how might /should copyright factor into considerations for developing an archive of born digital and other publically available materials, media, etc.? For example, consider The Brautigan Library, where unpublished authors submit their unpublished manuscripts. Clearly, the original authors are the rights holders, but how might one proceed to turn these submitted manuscripts into a digital archive available to anyone interested?

Digital Archiving: Theory and Practice

"Rethinking Personal Digital Archiving, Part 1"
An interesting study of the the inclination we all share, to hang on to things associated with our personal lives. Specifically examines the overlay of digital technology on this endeavor to examine four challenges from the field.

Best Practices for Digital Archiving: An Information Life Cycle Approach
This article argues that many of the established traditions associated with digital archiving are inadequate, inappropriate or not well known among the stakeholders in the digital environment. Concludes a need to identify new best practices that satisfy the requirements and are practical for the various stakeholder groups involved.

Electronic Literature

The Electronic Literature Organization was established in 1999 to promote and facilitate the writing, publishing, and reading of electronic literature. The term "electronic literature" refers to works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer. Within the broad category of electronic literature are several forms and threads of practice, some of which are . . .

  • Hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
  • Kinetic poetry presented in Flash and using other platforms
  • Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
  • Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing

Read N. Catherine Hayles "Electronic Literature: What Is It?" HERE

This online article is a companion to Hayles' book, About Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Learn more HERE

Among many initiatives, ELO is working to conceive, design, and build successful models for archiving various forms of electronic literture. President Joe Tabbi has written an essay entitled "Toward a Semantic Literary Web: Setting a Direction for the Electronic Literature Organizations's Directory." Read this essay HERE

In conjunction with Tabbi's essay, you should also read "Acid Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature" by Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Read this essay HERE.

You should also read "Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature" by Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merrilee Proffitt, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Read this essay HERE

What problems can you identify with regard to archiving electronic literature? How might these problems be addressed? In the various models for digital archives mentioned or detailed in these essays, has something been overlooked? Can you suggest a new, or different, model for a digital archive focusing on works of electronic literature? And after the archive is created, how might one curate the works collected within? What information would be good to feature along with the works themselves? And speaking of the works, would you collect only one version, or all? How about drafts, notes, other "stuff" the author may have used or relied upon during the process of creating a work of electronic literature?

back to top