Digital Archeology and Preservation

By | November 18, 2014

This week’s reading was very interesting to me because I felt I was reading about hard core archeologists and archivists even though what they dealt with was digital files. What they do has its own beauty and excitement and recognize the importance of their work.

The video on discovering Warhol’s lost digital arts on Amiga computer and the article on XFR STN made me understand how fast digital files become out of trends. If those file formats are ephemeral, why don’t engineers make something more long lasting? But it seems the speed of invention is getting faster and faster. Engineers have no control over what file formats will last more than thirty years. Knowing that the ephemeral nature of digital file formats, it is necessary to know how to preserve them before it gets too late such as what happened to the Warhol’s Amiga file. Digging and discovering art master’s work has its own excitement because it is archeology just like digging South American soil to find hidden Mayan treasures. But it takes too much effort and, most importantly, cost! In the XFR STN article written by Melena Ryzik mentions difficulty of finding the right tool and cost of outdated tools. I don’t even know how many VHS tapes I had to throw away when my mother bought DVD/Blue-ray player… I wish I knew earlier that I had to convert the files to something else.

I find what Ben Fino-Radin does at Rhizome very interesting and important for digital preservation. Digital preservation should not be only about preserving contents. It should also care about user experience through softwares or websites. It will be interesting to see and compare how the design changes over the time. As Fino-Radin says, “I sort of think of the Artbase at its ideal state as an archival box that has these documents that maybe some day will be stripped of their larger meaning… ” I truly believe that we can learn some interesting human behavior by looking at the designs that are preserved. Probably digital archivists like Fino-Radin will be needed by institutions and corporations.

One thought on “Digital Archeology and Preservation

  1. shannon Post author

    Great, Saori! I’m glad you appreciate the highly technical, material labor involved in preserving our virtual culture — which seems ever more precarious than the material culture we’d find in those Mayan ruins.

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