Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kill the darling part 6: bury the archaeology

It's time to say goodbyes to "information archaeologies" - Timothy Lenoir's concept, or at least the longer version of the footnote. I love Lenoir's work, but there is no way to keep this in the long form so it is time to bury it. This was in the context of Chapter VI on the concepts of the archive and archival practices for understanding media culture.

In addition to arts contexts, the question of archiving and excavating digital material is one that is crucial for post World War II scientific cultures, and hence histories of science and technology. For such cultures of innovation, where for the first time scientific research was inherently articulated through computational media, the materials left for “future archaeologists” present practical problems. As flagged by Tim Lenoir, such “information archaeologies” point towards how a mapping of science is a mapping of the software and hardware platforms instrumental to the research. Of course, also the development of so many aesthetic innovation in terms of HCI and screen technologies rose from similar science-tech labs too. In Lenoir’s (2007: 365-366) words: “Historians will need to add new tools of information archaeology to their tool-kit in order to write the history of recent science and technology born digitally. Among the types of tools we need are, for instance, emulators of older systems, such as the IBM 360, and other machines, such as Burrough’s machines, Osborn’s, and others that do not have legacy systems maintained by large companies or successor firms. Even early-generation Silicon Graphics machines that appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s are becoming scarce today. In order to research the programs that ranon these machines, we need to construct emulators that run on current generation machines. Beyond this we need to render the original programs in forms readable by current disk drives and other data-reading technologies. While genealogies of software and software languages are being constructed, more attention will have to be devoted to the history of software languages, and their implementations.”

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