Notes for Day One Readings

May 21, 2017 - Info

Underpinning the course is the idea that writing / creating / coding / reciting / citing any work is an act of documentation. It suggests that documentation is a form of preservation involving the transference of a human experience into a memory system that enables that experience to endure over a period of time and be made accessible to others. It differs from emulating, migrating, and collecting––all of which aim to instantiate a form of a work––in that documentation functions as a descriptive practice that both can stand apart from and augment other modes of preservation. As such, documentation can be carried out in many different ways depending on the specificity of the work and should provide as full and precise an expression as possible. Finally, it implies a recognition of value of that expression to a future audience.

The course also makes the assumption that practices for documenting works born native to the digital world differ from those born native to the physical. If indeed, as Abby Smith Rumsey suggests that memory is required for survival and impacts not only the survival of a species but of that species’ culture, then needed in this “Age of Matter,” as she calls it, are documentation practices that address the way in which memory systems can be combined and harnessed to preserve human experience.

Overarching questions for the course:

Day 1 Theme: Obsolescence, Memory, and Material / Digital Culture
Morning Focus: Introduction to challenges to documenting multimedia, interactive works; modes of preservation

Reading #1: Christiane Paul’s “The Myth of Immateriality”
We kick off our course with Christiane Paul’s seminal essay because it outlines the challenges to documenting born digital work that take advantage of multimedia and interactivity afforded by the digital medium. Additionally her essay also nicely encapsulates the current thinking about the modes of preservation from the perspective of new media art.

Questions to Ponder:


[We will also review the two publications from the Electronic Literature Organization about preservation: Acid Free Bits and Born Again Bits]

Day 1 Theme: Obsolescence, Memory, and Material/Digital Culture
Afternoon Focus: Obsolescence and the Challenges of Preserving Works

Reading #2: Abby Smith Rumsey’s When We Are No More, Chapters 1 and 10
What drives us to document and preserve? This question takes us to Rumsey’s book. In it she offers a thoughtful perspective about what is at stake when collective memory, which represents for her cultural heritage––and the chance of human survival––are lost.

Questions to Ponder:

Reading #3: Francisco Varela et al’s The Embodied Mind, Chapter 4
Following Rumsey’s discussion of collective memory, we move to Varela et al’s ideas surrounding human experience and notions about the “self.” Their discussion about mindfulness / awareness / meditation helps us gain a deeper understanding about the drive to document experiences and objects and provide an additional layer to Rumsey’s idea of survival.

Questions to Ponder:

Reading #4: Annet Dekker’s “On Re-Collection: New Media, Art, and Social Media: An E-Mail Interview with Richard Rinehart”
With this reading, we shift our attention back to attitudes toward preservation from among museum curators. The interview introduces Rinehart and Jon Ippolito’s Variable Media approach to preservation, a method that attends to the need of each individual work rather than imposing a blanket methodology across all works. Like Rumsey, he expresses concerns about cultural heritage, arguing that “social memory”––that is, the “long-term memory of civilizations––is predicated on “the preservation of cultural artefacts.”

Questions to Ponder:

Reading #5: Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Interview by Markus Miessen: “The Future Is a Dog”
We end the day’s discussion about Obsolescence, Memory, and Material / Digital Culture with Markus Miessen’s interview of Hans Ulrich Obrist. Obrist’s comment about the “limited life span” of things makes us aware that attempts at preservation are as impermanent as the works we strive to save.

Questions to Ponder: