Dragan Espenschied
Since the beginning
Works in New York, New York United States of America

Dragan Espenschied is Rhizome's Digital Conservator.

Since 2011, he has been restoring and culturally analyzing 1TB of Geocities data. From 2012-13, he lead on a renowned research project to conceptually and technically integrate the Transmediale Festival's collection of CD-ROM art into the Emulation as a Service framework, "bwFLA". In 2013, with the University of Freiburg, Espenschied helped preserve a personal computer from the legacy of media philosopher Vilem Flusser. His publications include the influential reader "Digital Folklore", and the papers "Large-Scale Curation and Presentation of CD-ROM Art", "Emulation in the Context of Digital Art and Cultural Heritage", and "An Architecture for Community-based Curation and Presentation of Complex Digital Objects".

In his artistic career, Espenschied focuses on the historization of Digital Culture from the perspective of computer users rather than hackers, developers or "inventors" and together with net art pioneer Olia Lialina has created a significant body of work concerned with how to represent and write a culture-centric history of the networked age.

Big Data, Little Narration

This is a mixture of manuscript and transcript of my keynote/closing lecture at Digital Preservation 2014, July 23rd in Washington, DC, held by the Library of Congress.

Trailblazers 7: Notes from the Game-Master

Game-Master Dragan Espenschied oversees surfers in this picture from competitor Arjun Srivatsa

At Trailblazers 7, surfing was all about different ways that indexes and taxonomies are created and used, and about excellent airhorn-puncutated stadium pop provided by DJ Smart & Outgoing.

The competition took place yesterday at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club; given the use of a one-button mouse, no keyboard, and no back button, qualifying surfers in the competition were asked to navigate a "trail" from one website to another, only by clicking. Without the use of search engines, browsing the web requires careful thinking about how websites are organized and interconnected. Often, successful trail blazing involved navigating to some link-rich environment. Whether surfers found this in editorial content (like M. Hipley's heavy usage of the New York Times website) or in the rather unsorted universe of user contributions (like Nick DeMarco always heading straight to forums and comments), finding these "indexes" and understanding the ordering of material there was crucial for success.

Emulating "Bomb Iraq"

Cory Arcangel, Bomb Iraq (2005). Screen capture of found hypercard program.

"In 2005, Cory Arcangel bought a used computer at a Salvation Army store in Buffalo, New York. Originally he was attracted to it because of its rarity: the Macintosh TV was a rather badly designed, half-hearted hybrid of a Macintosh Computer and a TV set, that performed neither of its designated functions very well and lacked any cool things that might come from the synergy. The machine was a commercial flop, only around 10,000 units were produced during a few months between 1993 and 1994."

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The Accidental Archivist: Criticism on Facebook, and How to Preserve It

Dear Juan,

we are working on integrating emulation into our archive and will release a prototype quite soon, if everything works out.

However, I am opposed to idea of "data-driven" storage of discussion, or actually anything that has to do with narration. 'Data-driven' is how most storage is done today and it has proven to be quite inadequate when looking back, revisting for example 1990's digital art. It would only work if something was actually created and manipulated on the data level, or the the whole process was designed around interactions with actual 'data' and data storage.

My goal is to move into archiving and preserving actual practices instead of the 'object' that a database would be. There is only 'truth' (as a computer science definition) but no meaning to be found in a database, as the database destroys any context by design. Context however is the most important thing when it comes to, for example, this discussion, and net art (as in, art that is created for the net, with its specifics in mind). facebook can change this context any time, at their will, according to their interests, and by this change the meaning of what is stored as 'truth' in their database. Think the move to the timeline profiles and how it forced facebook users to re-think everything they published about themselves before.

The API query result is a very different environment from where the discussion actually took place. A lot of the narration will get lost when we take this as an archival record.

Also, relying on the cooperation of the entity who's stuff you want to archive ... especially in the case of facebook this is definitely not future-proof. Similar to the timeline example above, facebook has the power to control key parts of the narration after it supposedly has happened by controling the API. Past events will be constantly changing if they are stored as structured, well formed database entries.

I go more into detail about this here http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2014/03/digital-culture-is-mass-culture-an-interview-with-digital-conservator-dragan-espenschied/

There is good use for working with APIs and databases, but not for conservation purposes I believe.


Art Focused and Distracted: Three new media exhibitions curated by Joshua Decter

I was just mentioning that the images of the "Virtual Curator" I have seen give the impression it could have been implemented in VRML.

On the other hand, this type of Gouraud shading was present in all kinds of interactive 3D graphics environments around that time, VRML was just the most easily accessible choice.

However, if the Virtual Curator was indeed created using VRML, I'd like to lay my hands on it ...


#DigitalArchivesDay: Anti-Aliasing Arcangel

Developing an alternative browser" ??? :) (BTW, the scaling of video is done by the QuickTime plugin in this case, not the browser.)

Why don't you just set up a virtual machine with Windows 2000 and an old version of Quicktime if you want to conserve how it looked like 10 years ago?

As you noted yourself, to re-render the video is really pointless, because the video files and the history about how they were created are the piece. The "content" of the video file is not the visuals it produces.



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