Chapter 1:
Internet Art
Chapter 2:
Chapter 3:
Digital Weakness
Table of Figures
James Hayes' art website

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The Long Now Foundation has laid out a number of suggested approaches to ensuring long term digital archiving, raised during the "10,000 Year Library Conference" held in June 2000 at the Stanford University campus. Their high minded suggestions of employing artificial intelligence to keep historic digital documents contemporary, combined with updated and backed-up versions etched onto a permanent medium such as silicon discs, have a long way to go before they become any sort of reality. Closer to our current era exists the Digital Library Federation. They are described very succinctly on their website:

The Digital Library Federation (DLF) is a consortium of libraries and related agencies that are pioneering in the use of electronic-information technologies to extend their collections and services. Through its members, the DLF provides leadership for libraries broadly by -

    • identifying standards and "best practices" for digital collections and network access
    • co-ordinating leading-edge research-and-development in libraries' use of electronic-information technology
    • helping start projects and services that libraries need but cannot develop individually56

The Digital Library Federation's educational work is immensely important for the new media digital age, but even more relevant to the online artistic community is the Internet Archive57. The Internet Archive is a public non-profit organisation that was founded in 1996 with the purpose of creating and providing access to "historical" collections that exist in digital format. What this means is that since 1996 the Internet Archive has been working to prevent the Internet - a new medium with major historical significance - and other "born-digital" materials from disappearing into the past. By "transcribing" this ever changing medium at regular intervals onto other physical storage mediums (servers) the Internet Archive is trying to make available to researchers and the general public websites that may no longer exist but that are of historic or other value. According to Internet Archive FAQ:

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine contains over 100 terabytes of data and is currently growing at a rate of 12 terabytes per month. The archive contains multiple copies of the entire publicly available web. This eclipses the amount of data contained in the world's largest libraries, including the Library of Congress.58

To put this in perspective, a common web page weighs in at around 50 kilobytes (all web pages vary in file size, but most web site designers' hold 50 kilobytes as the optimum target to balance content with download times). There are 1,024 kilobytes to a megabyte, so around 20 web pages. A floppy disc holds 1.2 megabytes, so could hold maybe 24 web pages. A gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes (a ZIP disc holds 100 megabytes), and a terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes, or 8,388,608 kilobytes - so could hold approximately 167,772 web pages. If the Internet Archive contains over 100 terabytes, this might be estimated to contain around 16,777,216 web pages. Images posted on the web have small file sizes compared to those used for print, because images on the computer screen do not need to be as high resolution, and smaller files download faster. When an artist sends a digital image for print, the file size depends on the print resolution and size, so files can vary in size from 2 MB right up to 70 MB or more.59

The Internet Archive has undertaken varying "special" projects, most recently to archive the Internet community's response to the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States of America.60 This archiving of a moment in time is a radical concept, allowing us to step back to those days after the attacks when the world's shock, outrage and grief were still poignantly new. Any traditional media archive attempting a similar project would require vast resources beyond any one institution's capabilities. For example, try to imagine an archive collection of every individual printed publication made worldwide over a 24-hour period.

by James Hayes
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