At the Electronic Literature Organization Symposium, The State of the Arts, held in April, 2002, at UCLA, writers, scholars, and teachers agreed upon a pressing need: a means to retrieve and preserve works of electronic literature from the ravages of technological “progress” that leave the works inoperable in new technical environments, and thus inaccessible. While these pioneering works promise to form a major part of the future of our literary heritage, their constant fading into technological obsolescence frustrates the formation of the critical and scholarly perspective required for that to happen. PAD envisions to preserving these works in forms that render them available to readers, supportable as part of museum collections, and suitable for scholarly research.
One important effort in the planning and early research stages of PAD was to make sure we worked closely with other text and media archiving groups. We’ve conducted a survey of the broad array of digital preservation and archiving that work that is underway around the world, and we are convinced that much of what is being done can be effectively applied to the job of preserving electronic literature. Unfortunately, electronic literature is not yet the focus of any major preservation effort, and many important aspects of preserving this type of work – such as how to maintain conditional sequencing of files delivered to the reader across different technical platforms – is not being addressed adequately. PAD proposes to fill this gap by adopting technologies and standards already in development and extending them in ways that will allow works of electronic literature (and other kinds of digital art objects) to have a long lifespan in a form as close to the original as possible and as useful material for scholarship.
One outcome of the PAD project is Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature, a pamphlet by Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Another is Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature, a report by By Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merrilee Proffitt, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin.