So long, Farewell….

Thinking back over this course over the semester I have gained new skills that will help me in my future. I have enjoyed hearing everyone’s differing perspectives. First off, I have learned what Digital Art is, and how it is a continually growing genre. Every time I go online I now analyze all of the different types of digital art I am viewing. I can definitely see more of a trend to want to collect and preserve this type of art in the future.

Continue reading “So long, Farewell….”

Curating texts and contexts

I was originally interested in this course for its focus on both arts materials and digital curation, both of which I’m hoping to work with in the future. Many of the concepts and issues we’ve been discussing over the last few months have stayed with me, coming to mind both in the course of my other archival coursework and beyond. As I’ve mentioned before, platform theory and format theory kept reemerging for me throughout our discussions. They provide useful frameworks for thinking about how a work’s context affects its creation and reception in powerful but not-always-obvious ways. These effects mean the various formats or platforms involved need to be considered not just for technical preservation purposes, but also for understanding the meaning and significance of the work.  Continue reading “Curating texts and contexts”

What does ‘Digital Art’ even mean?

What is art?

Throughout the course, I was surprised by the number of different things that we were studying. ‘Art’ can be so many different things – drawings/paintings, comics, programs, among others. The digital versions of traditional arts have more freedoms and allow for greater creativity than those bound to physical space and tangible media. However, the development of digital arts is intertwined with the development of computer technology. It is nearly impossible to discuss one without also discussing the other.

MS Paint had a large role in the rise of digital images. It started as a gimmick to sell operating systems for computers, when computers did not come with Windows pre-installed. However, the ability to create and edit images soon became an important one, leading to the creation of better programs, like Photoshop, and the eventual creation of memes and webcomics. le-rage-comics(It’s been a goal of mine to be able to use a Rage Comic in these posts for a while now, and I’m very happy to finally have a good excuse to use one.)

The digital version of comics allowed the artists to push the boundaries on what it means to be a comic by allowing them greater freedom and creativity. Comics were no longer bound by 3-panels and few to no colors. The comics could be video, full-color, whatever size required, or whatever else the artist desired.


As we learned from reading Racing the Beam earlier in the semester, computer programs can be another form of digital art. Programming requires creativity to work within the confines of the system’s hardware restrictions while also bringing the concepts to life, whether it is for a game, a Twitter bot, or some other form of program.

Glitch art, on the other hand, says that the creativity comes from destroying bits of the code that made up the original piece of art, an act that can only be done with a digital image. The internet and digital works allowed everyone to create and distribute their works, like fan fiction, through the various art sharing sites and communities, without having to receive approval from someone else, such as a publisher or art dealer.

life is a glitch

Preserving the digital

In addition to the born-digital, items can become digital though a process of taking a series if digital images of the item. No longer are books the only thing that can become digital; photogrammetry allows sculptures and even walls to become digital objects that can be studied and manipulated by scholars. For those preserving these digital objects, only the images, and not the digital objects, need preservation as the 3D representation can be recreated as software and technology changes.

Digitization is all well and good for ‘saving’ a thing that is deteriorating but the new digital thing now has its own needs. How long can we count on .pdf, .tiff, and other ‘recommended formats’ to remain usable and readable? Are we creating too many digital objects to ever hope to migrate as technology changes?

In addition, at the rate that the internet and the number of digital things worth preserving are growing, how do we meet the current needs while also planning for the future? There is the argument that we should only preserve as many things as we can properly care for. However, if we do that, numerous things that are worthwhile and should be preserved that will be lost. Should we then preserve everything and hope that the time and money to properly care for the stored items will magically appear one day? (Yes, this argument was discussed on this blog several weeks ago, but it is still a question without an answer).

XKCD Preservation Project Reflection/Review

The project to preserve the web comic XKCD had some interesting turns, and results at the end of it all. The beginning the goal was to preserve the webcomic using the internet archive quickly changed.  Instead I ended up creating an archival model and an AIP to go with it and learning a couple of interesting things along the way.Блоки бетонные для стен подвалов

Review: What is XKCD and why preserve it?

XKCD is a unique web comic created by Randal Munroe, a physicist who worked at NASA before moving to work on XKCD full time.  The webcomic first launched in 2005 and has had regular comics every week since then.  Due to its unique focus on science, mathematics, and other intelligent fields in addition to relationships and philosophy XKCD has an avid following amongst a number of communities.  This and the web comics significant characteristics make this comic valuable and worth preserving for the future.

Project Results/Reflection

The results of this project is an effective plan and model for the preservation of XKCD using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. However in addition to creating this model and AIP for preserving XKCD I also learned a couple of things that I did not expect to. During this project I learned about how varied archival information packages (AIPs) can be, how important having good discovery at your archive is, and that the archival model can be just as important, possibly even more important, as the AIP itself.

Going into this project I automatically assumed that archival information packages were something large, complex, and time consuming to make.  I figured that the AIP consisted of things like complex metadata, both technical and not, in addition to things like authority, policy, purpose.  What I learned that the AIP can vary dramatically in complexity due to what is being preserved and how it’s being preserved in the first place.  It turns out that the nature of the item can greatly affect how complex the AIP needs to be.  For example authority for XKCD did not need to be included in the AIP because the comic’s creator has already declared the comic available for public use.  Another thing that surprised me was that the method of preservation affected the AIP as well.  It turns out that limitations in the method of preservation can make parts of the AIP completely useless and even a waste of time.  Learning this made me realize that you have to know and understand what you archive or chosen institution can do when designing you AIP or you can end up making something that cannot be used.

The second thing I learned working on the project is that discovery for archives is extremely important. Not only is it the only way for people to find and discover things in an online archive it is also important from a preservation perspective.  When one of you goals is to make sure every entry in the archive is functional being able to find those entries because extremely important.  This is because you cannot replace or repair broken entries if you cannot find them.  Unfortunately when working with the Internet Archive I regularly found myself confused due to how the archive organizes its entries and metadata to the point of second guessing myself. I had to recheck to make sure I was right in that something was missing or broken a number of times and had actually made a mistake once or twice during the project.  This issue has given me a greater appreciation for good discovery features and the archives that have it because not only is it important to users but also to fellow archivists.

The last thing I learned from the project is that the archival model can be just as, if not more, important as the archival information package.  While the information package might be what you submit to the archive in order to preserve a record to the desired degree I came to realize that how you make that AIP and the steps to reaching the project goal can be just as, or even more, important than it.  This is because by itself the AIP is nothing but a package of information, you need to know what to do with it, how to make it, and most importantly what to do if it does not work.  In effect the AIP is only a small piece of a larger puzzle that the archival model tells you how to solve.  I did not expect this going to the project, believing that the AIP was paramount to the success of the project.  However I quickly realized that the AIP alone was not enough to properly ensure the webcomic would be preserved and that more was necessary to make that happen.  That thing turned out to be an archival model, which solved the problem nicely.  What I learned from this is that the AIP is not the only thing that matters and that it is actually part of the greater process of preserving something.


          In conclusion the goal of the preservation project was to preserve the XKCD webcomic because of its cultural value.  This was accomplished using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.  While working on this project I learned a number of things. I learned that the AIP can vary due to both the material and the preservation method.  I learned that the archival model, or the preservation steps, can be just as important or even more important the archival information package itself.  Finally I learned that the discovery services at the archive are extremely important in understanding what they have, what they do not have, and what needs to be replaced.  All in all I believe that I learned allot from this project and that it was worth completing.

An Intent to Document

Taking an idea of preserving a born-digital set of artworks into practice presented a number of challenges and served as a way to examine the themes in this course. My project of preserving the “Transforming” series of digital paintings ultimately focused on documenting how they were made and the public reaction to them.

This decision came out of ideas about documentation of performance and also about social memory. Rob and Nick Carter’s stewardship of the digital objects and their history of creating  time-based installation art made me think that focusing on the works themselves was less necessary. Yet, for all the intentions of the creators to reward a sustained engagement by their audience, no one has really taken the time to understand if it worked.

The Viewer’s Perspective Unfulfilled

In my project, I never reached that point either as I did not get to interview the people who posted about the art from their social media accounts. While lacking the time to do so, it is a necessary step if one truly wanted to understand the cultural impact of these works. Neglecting the public viewpoint and just focusing on the art demonstrated to me the inadequacy of non-active collecting and the failure to create diverse and often contradictory perspectives in the historical record.

Some viewer reaction I did capture, demonstrating a different viewpoint than the loving art critics

This realization helped better define in my mind that digital art is more than just a conceptual work but is made up of the sum total of the platforms, intentions, mechanisms, properties, and personal experiences which all create the challenge of adequate representation. I had to make compromises to realize just a portion of this totality.

Good Intentions

I think one of the most useful parts of this project was the creation of statements of preservation intent. Really understanding what you wanted to do and the “why” behind it was essential once problems arose and compromises needed to be made. They lay bare our biases and continually provide a point to return, reflect, and revise (if necessary) the goals for projects. Doing this project reinforced that reality and that I had to rely on the preservation intent statements to determine where I could make trade-offs.

Everyone’s friend: the three-legged digital preservation stool

The biggest challenge was not having enough time to do everything that I planned the way I wanted to do them. In my project, I planned on using a number of command line tools like youtube-dl and ffmpeg to work with born-digital video, in part because they come recommended by digital preservation practitioners and in part because I wanted to get more experience with using the command line. However, I just didn’t have the time to read the documentation well enough to use these tools and get most of the deliverables of my project done at the same time.

We (archivists, preservationists, etc.) like to opine on the value of open source software but in low resource institutions (whether in time, money, or staff) they are often impossible to implement.  Just as there are trade-offs in regard to authenticity and access, the same goes for resources and digital preservation standards. Perhaps in the future there will be time to return to make additions and create a more robust AIP.


Ultimately, I ended up using a number of tools like ClipGrab and Flash Video Downloader which were not always entirely clear about the quality of the videos downloaded, but at least allowed me to get them all and save them in a standard MPEG4 format. In my preservation intent statements I wanted to save the VFX breakdowns of the videos in the highest video quality so there would be good visual detail for users in the future. Without as much control over this, I had to save things realizing that something was better than nothing. Hopefully through my work someone will understand the “score” of the work and can recreate them later if necessary.


Documentation is essential for understanding more than a surface level of what an artwork is and can be accomplished at varying levels of digital preservation. Digital art preservation (and digital preservation in general) is often not hard because we don’t know what to do at some level, it’s hard because there are not enough resources or support for which to do it. This requires that our intentions be transparent but not so brittle that we cannot adequately adapt to the needs of the situation. Through understanding this reality, I was able to complete my project in a somewhat satisfactory manner, realizing that there is always more work to do and that preservation is not a one-time event.