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

PAD (Preservation, Archiving, and Dissemination)

April 3-4, 2003
Location: UCSB, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, 620 HSSB
UCSB’s e(X)literature site

At last year’s Electronic Literature conference in Los Angeles, Katherine Hayles gave a keynote that 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 (someday even the pyramids will wear away), the reliance of computer-based creations upon a particular and delicate matrix of software and hardware, makes preserving and archiving digital work especially challenging. Out of last Spring’s discussions emerged the “PAD” initiative: it 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 related activities: preservation, archiving, and dissemination. Like most things in life, what may seem to have a simple solution (for example, preserving digital works by creating emulators that allow us to migrate them to new platforms) ends 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 is necessary for preservation, archiving and dissemination); the various interests of users (who benefits, and it what ways?).

The April conference has two primary purposes: to address the many general issues surrounding an attempt to preserve, archive and disseminate digital works, and, in dialogical spirit, we hope to offer an account of the PAD project that will allow us to benefit from those participating in the conference.