Interactive Futures - 2007

Interactive Futures 2007 ( November 15 - 17 ) Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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John F. Barber

Digital Archiving and The New Screen

This presentation highlights digital archiving as an important component for the preservation, presentation, and addition of value to digital performances, artworks, literary expressions, hyperlinked resources, and interactive experiences created for “the new screen.”

Using the term “the new screen” involves certain assumptions. First, we assume the “the new screen” speaks to digital media—performances, artworks, literary expressions, hyperlinked resources, and interactive experiences—produced by and intended for viewing/interaction with/on stand alone or networked computers, or via computer technology of some sort.

Second, when we speak of “the new screen” we collapse our understanding of its newness with respect to other media into our understanding of its “state of the art” in function and design. Thus, the “new screen” is an upgrade of the previous screen state, resulting from technological or practical/artistic application of new abilities.

Such advancements in state of the art often orphan, abandon, or make obsolete previous states, casting aside the old in favor of the new.

The older, original state of digital artworks or interactive information resources certainly form a basis for newer, more current states, but the loss of their creativity in the no longer current state of the art, the historical state, is, arguably a heavy price to pay for the sake of newness.

In the face of such potential losses, the digital archiving becomes a legitimate, even essential endeavor. What then are some of the important considerations related to digital archiving for the new screen?

Some questions to consider include: What about the implications of archiving, in a digital format, artifacts that were created in a non-digital format, or age, like books?

Is there a way of retaining non-digital work as is, within a digital archival context?

The “New Screen” is dynamic, changing; it must do so in order to remain “new.” But archiving is, or has been traditionally, static, focused on presenting a view or slice of the artifact that promotes understanding or overview. How do we reconcile these differences?

Many works were created originally as static artifacts, with no implication or sense of interaction other than in the immersive experience of reading or watching. The new screen is much more kinesthetic. How do we reconcile these differences, or allow for them in archival efforts?

What about archiving interactive works, made originally for previous versions of the new screen, which are now “obsolete” because of changes in technology behind the new screen? Should we seek or employ an open source base level archival language that will allow these works to continue to provide their interaction and immersion to future viewers/users? Or, do we abandon work no longer supported by the ever evolving new screen?

A discussion of such questions may be of interest to individuals just beginning their own dance with “the new screen.” For those more veteran audience members, such a discussion may promote reflection as to how models for archiving may drive models for the production of new work for the new screen in both the creative and applied arenas, perhaps even spur creation of new capabilities for “the new screen.”


Dr. John F. Barber teaches in the Digital Technology and Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver. His research and publication often examines changing communication and speculation potentials wrought by shifting relationships between technology, art, science, and the humanities. For example, New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing about and in Electronic Environments, a volume edited with Dene Grigar, focuses on the future of writing resulting from its move to inhabit electronic spaces. Within his research interest areas of electronic archiving, interface design, and information architecture, Barber has published chapters in Going Wireless, Texts and Technology, The Online Writing Classroom, Electronic Networks, HighWired, and Studies in Technical Communication; articles in print journals like Readerly Writerly Text, Works and Days, and Pre/Text; and articles in electronic journals like Leonardo Digital Reviews, Fine Art Forum, and Kairos.

A current project is Brautigan Bibliography and Archive, an online, interactive bio-bibliographic “data hive” focusing on writer Richard Brautigan. An upshot of this project is Richard Brautigan: Essays on the Writings and Life, an anthology of essays about Brautigan’s writings, life, and place in American literature, as well as entries regarding Brautigan in the Encyclopedia of Beat Literature.

Barber’s secondary research interests include speculative literature like science fiction. Recent work in science fiction includes an essay in Leonardo Electronic Almanac focusing on “Parallel Worlds in Science Fiction Literature” and a presentation at the Science Fiction Research Association annual meeting on “Prototypes for Cyberspace: Influences on William Gibson’s ‘consensual hallucination’.”


Brautigan Bibliography and Archive:

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