Thursday, February 28, 2008

BBS History is an excellent archive of ASCII text distributed during the mid-Eighties. There's a good introduction on the frontpage:

The focus is on mid-1980's textfiles and the world as it was then, but even these files are sometime retooled 1960s and 1970s works, and offshoots of this culture exist to this day.
Archival of networked data has probably become more difficult since the 80's. Organizing and presenting files from back then seems pretty simple in comparison to our present-day predicament because it does not involve the preservation of links or dynamic content. The files are self-contained and the curator can choose how they are arranged. However, without hyperlinks, it is difficult to make the historical and cultural relationship between older content and newer content explicit to the modern user.

Because the ASCII files he curates do not link to other files, Jason Scott keeps them alive by presenting them on the Internet where they can be perused or linked to by modern users. They are not "naturally" a part of the hypertext rhizome - they were written before the popularization of hypertext - but with Jason's careful presentation their historical relevance and accessibility is preserved.

With each technological shift, data format standards change. In addition, how we access and interact with information changes. Taking into consideration both how the computer accesses files and how best to present these files to the user, "porting" old content to a new era of users and computers becomes extremely difficult. When issues of copyright enter the scene, preservation and presentation to a new generation of computer users becomes even messier..

1 comment:

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