However, all of this paper’s authors share a keen appreciation for what Richard Ovenden has helpfully called (in conversation) “the digital materiality of digital culture.” We would gloss this as a curatorial sensitivity toward the uniqueness of individual instances of both hardware and data objects, coupled with an awareness of how the affordances of particular systems, environments, and technologies can all impact the creative process. For example, knowing how much of a document would be visible on a screen at one time—knowledge that depends on the physical size of the display hardware, its screen resolution, and preferences as defined within particular application software—can be critical to understanding aspects of an author’s composition process.
As preservationists we would therefore do well to ask: what are the dust jackets of the digital age? What seemingly incidental features of the digital environment may turn out to have value for a researcher whose future interests we cannot foresee? What software (perhaps even spyware) is the equivalent of Jane Austen’s creaking door?
—Digital Materiality: Preserving Access to Computers as Complete Environments Matthew G. Kirschenbaum1, Erika L. Farr2, Kari M. Kraus1, Naomi Nelson2, Catherine Stollar Peters3, Gabriela Redwine4, Doug Reside1
Larsen’s most significant work, Marble Springs (1993), exists in a number of physical and digital states which exhibit complex relationships and dependencies. A shower curtain, for example, is the support for a dozen laminated screenshots representing different pieces of the work; these are connected by colored yarn mapping their links and relations. An artifact such as this, coupled with hard copy printouts and transcripts, coupled with digital drafts in various formats and versions of the HyperCard software used as the final authoring environment, is emblematic of the kind of challenge archivists in a number of different cultural heritage sectors can expect to face in the future: not just born-digital content, but digital-analog hybrids.
-Digital Materiality: Preserving Access to Computers as Complete Environments Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Erika L. Farr, Kari M. Kraus, Naomi Nelson, Catherine Stollar Peters, Gabriela Redwine, Doug Reside, p. 109
Sometimes the academic articles I read for class sound like excerpts from Borges.