Coming August 11, 2009

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Collections & Collecting New Media Materials – Videogames

Hi, I’m Megan Winget, and I’m an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m currently working on a grant-funded project focused on videogame collections (specifically archival collections from industry sources). I’m presenting some of the initial findings from this research at SAA (Thursday 10AM), but at THATCamp, I would like to present something a little more general, although still related to videogames.

In talking to videogame developers and players, I’ve run across people who create collections of materials with which traditional collecting institutions (like libraries, museums and archives) have no experience. Examples of these materials range from the relatively straightforward: hours of gameplay recorded on digital video, home made machinima, walkthrough files, and guild wikis; to the more unusual: terabyte-sized collections of in-game log and chat files, and “books” created and used in-game and “decaying” through mismanagement.

In my proposed session, I’m hoping to get a chance to discuss the ramifications that these kinds of materials will have on collecting institutions’ collection development policies. Not only are there challenges inherent in the materials themselves, these kinds of materials highlight the mutability of the ideas of “a collection,” and “collectors.”

Some of the specific issues I’ve been considering…

Related to the materials:

  • Collecting institutions lack the vocabulary to define and describe new media materials
  • Have to allow for a different model of collection-building (Internet allows for easy copying and storage) (collector does not go through traditional acquisition channels) (concept of authority almost entirely dismissed from process)
  • Collected materials are not typically physical, and not necessarily made by authoritative creators (artists, musicians, directors, choreographers…) vs. (invested “amateurs” = guys in basements)
  • How to determine value? Without vocabulary and model for creation, it’s difficult for an institution to tell if materials are “important” enough to collect

Related to the evolving concept of “the collection:”

  • What does it mean to collect digital objects?
  • Who is the collector and how is their viewpoint valuable?
  • Why are the materials being collected?
  • How are they being collected?
  • How do people decide what to collect?
  • Do the collected items need to be monetarily valuable?  (culturally valuable?) (contextually valuable?)
  • How does the individual’s collection relate to the institutional collection?
  • Are there any other eras where the idea of collecting changed? Where people tended to collect stuff that other, more authoritative sources eschewed? (visionary collectors, avant garde, futures trading in cultural objects)

Hope I get a chance to discuss this! If anyone else is thinking of talking about collecting institutions, the role of authority, and non-traditional materials, maybe we could have a session together. Looking forward to the THATCamp!

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