Contents
Introduction
Chapter 1:
Internet Art
Chapter 2:
Institutions
Chapter 3:
Digital Weakness
Conclusion
Table of Figures
Footnotes
Bibliography
Glossary
James Hayes' art website


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"That's a Sherman tank," Laney said, remembering a CD-ROM from Gainesville, one about the history of armoured vehicles. Arleigh didn't seem to have heard him. But then she'd probably never played with CD-ROMs, either. Time in a Federal Orphanage had a way of acquainting you with dead media platforms.48

The above quote from William Gibson, the acclaimed king of cyberpunk writing, resides in the context of a story which takes place only one generation in the future. The time is set when one of the characters refers to the fact that the Internet didn't exist when her mother was born. Gibson has taken on board the fact that not only is the pace of technological change increasing, so is the pace of technological obsoletism.

This is one of the dangers faced by the institutions and artists who take on board digital media as a primary publishing or creative medium, that for all its electronic perfection, the physical media on which this information is stored is far from invulnerable. RAND49 researcher Jeff Rothenberg says in his paper "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information":

The past few decades have witnessed the demise of numerous forms of digital storage. This has prompted my observation that digital information lasts forever - or five years, whichever comes first.50

In this extensive and informative paper, a revised expansion from a January 1995 Scientific American51 article of the same title, Rothenberg covers the many modes of loss possible with digital information:

. physical decay of media, loss of information about format, encoding or compression of files, obsolescence of hardware, and unavailability of software.52

Rothenberg's concerns have led directly to an active response from at least two organisations, the Long Now Foundation53 and the Digital Library Federation54.

by James Hayes
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