Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature

Critical Writing
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2005
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Abstract (in English): 

The intended audience of Born-Again Bits includes besides e-lit authors also the publishers, archivists, academics, programmers, and funding officers who will be necessary partners in an overall, renewable ecology of electronic literature. These other communities are already at work on digital preservation strategies. However, experimental e-lit has special qualities that make it an extreme case of the digital artifact. It is hoped that ELO's PAD initiative will contribute to other digital preservation strategies by ensuring that they accommodate e-lit and so, in the process, become more robust for all digital works.

Born-Again Bits had its origin in the work of the PAD Technology/Software Committee (directed by Alan Liu), which in 2002 and 2003 prepared a report for ELO proposing strategies for the long-term preservation of electronic literature. Born-Again Bits distills the conclusions of that report into a two-part plan: the ELO Interpreter and X-Literature Initiatives. The specifics of the plan are imagined less as hard-and-fast commitments than as a way to flesh out what a general approach might look like. Though necessarily technical at some points, the overall goal of Born-Again Bits is to allow diverse stakeholders (authors, publishers, archivists, academics, programmers, grant officers, and others) to get just enough of a glimpse of each other's expertise to see how an overall system for maintaining and reviving the life of electronic literature might be possible.

(Source: Preface to Born-Again Bits)

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From the point of view of long-term digital preservation, however, the entity of interest is not necessarily any discrete object but the working relationship among objects (each of which may mutate) that assures readability. This means that the intact "original work" in its initial instantiation […] loses its iconic status and becomes just one of many possible manifestations of a preserved work (Liu et al.)

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Scott Rettberg