Coming August 11, 2009

Notes on an improvisational archives

Here are some of the notes I’ve been taking on my thoughts this past weekend around a rich web 2.0 archival experience, qua jazz.

Implications for a passed-down and mutable history in an internet/web archival schema. In ever-changing web environment, veracity of web information (i.e. message boards, blogs, wikis) can be difficult to track down, nevertheless collecting snapshots leads to a narrative history.

How does the archival experience retain the mutable/ever-changing quality of history? Especially in the context of a particularly flux-laden narrative, such as Af-Am/oral historical tradition, specialized interest/subgroups, or even contemporary web groups?

If we are concerned as a profession about how to engage digital records/digital history, perhaps the application of a framework that retains the inherent flux of the contents is what we need. As in jazz music, which is inherently improvised, there is still an overarching structure of a tune in which improvised information occurs, different each time but for the compositional whole. Or in free jazz, letting the improvised information determine the structure (a little more difficult).

Are there structures for information in the archival profession that allow for continually changing archival data / improvising responses? How can an archives remain unfixed as a concept and still retain value as a reliable source of networked information?

Of course, to be true to the materials & their structure, not all materials/groups of information are in flux nor should the archiving practices as such be made to reflect continual change.

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Expression / Architecturally – could use Rich Media software, GLIFOS or IEEE P1599 (music), multileveled experience – (cf. Baggi, 2005). I’ve written Denis Baggi in the hopes that he might have some further ideas on whether an improvisational protocol could be written for a rich-media (or rich-content) archival experience.

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Anyway, these are some of the thoughts swirling around in my head. I make no claims as to whether such an approach is realistic or possible, but it interests me, precisely because I’ve always had a personal tug-of-war between experiential time as I see it, and fixed notions of archival materials & historical relationships.