Vectors Review (Week 2 assignment)

This week Tyler and I are asking our Intro to DH Freshman Seminar students to review an article or project from Vectors with the concept of design in mind. We are doing the same.

Being the archival obsessive I am, I decided to look at Vector’s first edition from 2005, one focused around the concept of evidence (a core archival principle). I visited the table of contents and picked a project/article randomly: Virtual Vaudeville, by David Saltz. The editors’ introduction drew me in, so I clicked “Launch Project.” What I received was…

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 9.07.03 AM

“Technological obsolescence and other factors” are enemies of the archive, and negate any ability for design (good or bad) to be realized. My work as an archivist is focussed on opposing the inevitable onslaught of technological obsolescence. Progress is slow, at times glacial. In a kind of oxymoronic loop, we attempt to combat technological obsolescence with other technologies that inevitably fall prey to their own set off preservation ills (DAT tapes and bit rot) or access impediments (looked for 3/4″ Umatic player lately, or how about a player for your Moving Image JPEG 2000 files?). And what of these “other factors” mentioned in the above error message? Are these rights and ownership related factors? If so, those challenges can kill any project, no matter how technologically sound.

While I’m  disappointed by Virtual Vaudeville‘s totalizing virtuality, I feel some solace knowing that archival struggles permeate all realms, even (especially?) the cutting edge.  I’m empathetic with what I’m sure are the creator’s and editors’ frustrations, and will use this as an example of challenges when I meet again with fellow members SCALAR’s Archive and Preservation Working Group.

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