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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The Long Now Foundation (founded by some of the most innovative computer industry entrepreneurs) has initiated several projects, the "library" project, and the "10,000 year clock". The central theme of this foundation is a desire to engender long-term thinking attitudes in this rapidly paced modern society. 10,000 years was chosen as a relevant time-frame for long term thinking because it is the length of time since the last ice age ended, through which mankind barely survived, and from which human technological history begins (starting with agriculture and animal domestication). The "10,000 year clock" has gone through several design stages, the outcome of which has been a mechanism that is fully functional and repairable using Bronze Age technology, but which was created with 21st century thinking and design.

It is uniquely fascinating that The Long Now Foundation's solution for a long-term stable technology was to settle on the lowest common denominator of metal working technology. Another aspect of the Long Now Foundation's solution is in the establishment of human centred ceremony: the clock cannot be fully independent but must be cared for and "wound" by society. This ensures a human continuity of the clock's existence, so that its whereabouts and purpose will not be easily lost. They base this concept on a similar Japanese concept of community ceremony used at the Jingu Shrine in Ise55, whereby the wooden shrine buildings are completely destroyed, then rebuilt and rededicated to the enshrined goddesses once every 20 years. This ceremony has survived for 2,000 years, preserving a unique and sophisticated architectural and religious heritage that might otherwise have been lost.

Through the act of destroying and rebuilding the shrine buildings, several archival aims are being achieved. The regular occurrence ensures that the community involved does not have time to forget the necessary skills involved, and also that an untimely generation specific accident (such as the death of an elder) will not wipe out all knowledge necessary to the continuance of the ceremony. The act of destroying the shrine imposes the need to rebuild it, thus ensuring that the unique architectural skills necessary for the shrine's construction are kept alive through regular use. The act of rebuilding also involves unique religious ceremonies which, through this repetition, are preserved.

For digital art the equivalent ceremony will involve regular archiving (backing up) of digital content. As with the Jingu Shrine, certain archival aims will be achieved through regular back ups. Archiving to a new storage unit, as opposed to regular back ups onto an individual storage unit such as a ZIP disc, will ensure that the digital signal will not be lost as the storage material degrades over time. Regular back ups also raise the issues of software changes over time, meaning that those doing the archiving will also have to preserve the software necessary to access the material, and possibly even the operating system (for example Windows 95) necessary to support the software.

by James Hayes
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