DOCAM (en) > Techwatch

Data sheet (Document):

Documenting variable media art and digital resources: FRBR meets the Variable Media Questionnaire - Article "Cryogenics and Creativity: The Frankenstein Factor in Cultural Preservation" (Maitland & Hall)

Complete bibliography
Maitland, Eileen and Cordelia Hall. “Cryogenics and Creativity: The Frankenstein Factor in Cultural Preservation.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 21.3 (2006): 327-339.
Type of document
Participation method
2- Documentation of media art

Observer: Corina MacDonald

This article highlights the common issues faced by librarians, information professionals, curators and conservators who seek to undertake the long term management and preservation of digital works. Maitland and Hall discuss interactivity and fragmentation as two characteristics of both variable media artworks and digital resources which must be accounted for when developing preservation strategies. The authors elaborate on the practical consequences of these issues with a review of several art works, including Nam June Paik’s TV Garden, Mark Napier’s net.flag, Ken Goldberg’s Ouija 2000 and Szegedy-Maszak’s Cryptogram.

These concerns underline the importance of documentation within a preservation strategy. The fragmentary nature of variable media artworks and digital resources has led to a shift in documentation methodology toward more flexible and multidimensional models which can describe an entity integrally by capturing its context, components and relationships. The authors present the example of the Variable Media Questionnaire as an important development towards capturing these subjective factors in a comprehensive documentary approach to preservation.

Maitland and Hall propose a new methodology for cataloguing digital works that takes into account the unique characteristics of the medium. Their proposed framework is based upon the IFLA Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). Although this framework was designed in 1998 for bibliographic materials, its focus on the functionality and lifecycle of a work can easily be adapted to other materials. Its strength lies in its level of abstraction, which does not mandate any particular structural implementation. The scheme describes resources in terms of four entities (Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item) and four functions (Find, Identify, Select, Obtain). Each function utilizes specific attributes of each entity type. The authors propose an extension of this model to incorporate the behaviours and preservation strategies of the Variable Media Questionnaire. The four strategies of the Questionnaire (Storage, Emulation, Migration, Re-interpretation) would become new functions, and new attributes would be added to the existing four entities to accommodate the list of behaviours.

FRBR offers an interesting starting point for a revised cataloguing practice which addresses the descriptive complexities of highly subjective and fragmentary entities. The authors conclude that “the repurposing of the IFLA Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records highlights the way in which process and behavior override object and item in a common approach to address the issues facing both conservators of new media art and managers of digital resources” (2006).

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)
[Online] (Page consulted on February 14, 2007)
Variable Media Questionnaire
[Online] (Page consulted on February 14, 2007)

Sandin Image Processor
Sandin Image Processor