e(x)literature: the Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination of Electronic Literature

Event type: 
03.04.2003 to 04.04.2003
Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, 620 HSSB
Santa Barbara
United States
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At the 2002 Electronic Literature Online conference in Los Angeles, Katherine Hayles' keynote address warned that the incessant development of the software and hardware is rendering old computer based works obsolete and inaccessible. Although obsolescence is a problem for every form of cultural production, the reliance of computer-based creations upon a constantly evolving delicate matrix of software and hardware, makes preserving and archiving digital work especially challenging. Out of last Spring's discussions emerged the "PAD" initiative, and acronym for "preservation, archiving, and dissemination." PAD is an effort to develop a software standard (and perhaps eventually software products) that would give writers and artists some influence over the future development of the hardware/software interface, especially with regard to three practical goals of preservation, archiving, and dissemination.

In the discussions of the last year, apparently available and relatively simple solutions--for example, preserving digital works by creating emulators that allow us to migrate them to new platforms--end up becoming complex, and implicated in many other issues. Here are a few: the value of earlier works (are they worth saving?); cost (at what expense?); technical feasibility (how can it be done?); ownership of works and software platforms (what sort of open-ness and access is necessary for this project). Such a project requires constant attention to creators and users (who benefits, and it what ways?).

The April conference has two primary purposes: to address the general issues surrounding an attempt to preserve, archive and disseminate works created on the computer, and, in dialogical spirit, by offering a public account of the PAD project, we hope learn from those participating in the conference.

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Scott Rettberg
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