Interactive Software Archival

45cf72d0b5611b4372b8367759882b93?s=47 wilkie
August 19, 2016

Interactive Software Archival

Over the years, computation has substantially increased our creativity and opportunity. Computers constantly improve along with our ability to create and collaborate toward new art, science, and furthering existing technology. However, there's also a danger in that software becomes difficult to run over time. This fragility leaves us with a tech field that is somehow simultaneously growing and yet narrowing: Word documents become difficult to open, video games on specialized hardware become difficult to play, a researcher's simulator of protein synthesis becomes difficult to find-- these represent a loss of perspective and culture, an inability to revisit the past, and a lack of scientific accountability. In response, librarians have created a collection of digital libraries that archive images, video, and even the most vibrant of GeoCities websites. In the end this is not enough. We have media that is interactive and real-time. We have tools that can create new content at any point. Scientists have a dire need for accountability in research as experiments become harder to replicate. How do we make archives and libraries that can handle the preservation of code while allowing us to -- 100 years from now -- build, run, and archive anything new we create with that code? Where are our museums of interactive art? To answer that, we will take a look at the libraries and archives of the hypothetical, ones that exist now, and those in development. Focusing on the motivations and technology behind them, we will look at what they could do better and how. You will leave with an appreciation for the concept of provenance and how librarians can teach us the importance of systems that can trace an object back to the code that generated it. Finally, a look at the state-of-the-art and how Pittsburgh is leading the effort with two such interactive archives in development centered around using various levels of virtualization to preserve interactive art, games, and scientific experimentation. Our discussion will culminate with a demonstration of these new interactive archive systems, how they work, and what the future looks like.



August 19, 2016