CSNI Researchers Annet Dekker (21st Feb) and Katrina Sluis (24th May) will be participating in “Curating Machines”, a series of events organised by Olga Goriunova, Lilly Markaki and Chris Townsend (Dept. of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London): https://www.facebook.com/
Curating Machines, Vol. 2: Annet Dekker
-> Version Control and Archive Freedom
(Workshop by Annet Dekker, University of Amsterdam, and Lozana Rossenova, London South Bank University/Rhizome)
Version control systems (VCS) check the differences between versions of code or text. By archiving (by means of a timestamp and the name of the author) and making available ongoing versions of a project, VCS allows multiple people to work on elements of a project without overwriting someone else’s text. Changes that are made can easily be compared, restored, or, in some cases, merged. Finding a coherent and structured way
to organise and control revisions has always been at the core of archival practices, but it became even more urgent, and complex, in the era of computing.
Wikipedia is perhaps the most well-known example of using version control in its ‘page history’. Using ‘QuickDiff’, which is based on character-by-character analysis, it allows users to check the differences between new and previous versions. However, currently there are many different types of wiki around, which all have specific purposes and can be used in multiple ways. In this short workshop, we will focus on comparing MediaWiki and WikiData, two systems that are currently used by several cultural organisations and archives.
This workshop will explore the different usage of MediaWiki and WikiData. Through collaborative experimentation, we will analyse how VCS can be effectively integrated into the practice of archiving and documentation. Alongside some practical experimentation, and to gain a better understanding of the underlying, but omnipresent, structures that support these environments, we will discuss how we can use these platforms for archival purposes by answering the following questions: what happens to archival data and documentation once transferred into MediaWiki and WikiData, what is the function of metadata in these systems, what is the role of the wiki community and how stable and secure is the data in a version controlled archive?
–> Between Light and Dark Archiving (lecture)
Some people argue that the digital archive is an oxymoron (Laermans and Gielen 2007) or that it is more akin to an anarchive (Ernst 2002, Zielinski 2014). Derrida mentioned the word anarchive to signal that ‘what remains unvanquished remains associated with the anarchiv.’ Ernst relates this notion to the digital archive and describes how the anarchive is something that cannot be ordered or catalogued because it is constantly re-used, circulated, expanding and dynamic, and is thus only a metaphorical archive (Ernst 2002). Similarly, Foster describes how the ‘anarchival’ is about obscure traces rather than absolute origins, emphasising the incomplete which may offer openings to new interpretation, projects or documents, or ‘points of departure’ as mentioned by Foster (Foster 2004). These various descriptions implicate that digital archives, and in particular Web-based archives, function less as a storage space and more as a recycling centre in which the material (the archival document, if one can still use this term) is dynamic. In other words, as many of these media theoreticians and critics argue, the default of the digital archive is re-use instead of storage, circulation rather than centrally organised memory, and enduring change versus stasis. This beckons the question how to capture and retrieve all this data, information and documents that are ‘archived’ on the Web? In the presentation I will pay attention to works by, among others, Erica Scourti, Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied and Harm van den Dorpel, who in various ways explore the challenges of archiving and archival systems on the Web. In the process answering the question how the transformation of the archive into a networked device is changing how archives are curated, experienced and preserved. Arguing that it’s between ‘light’ and ‘dark’ archiving that new potentials can be found.
Curating Machines, Vol. 4: Katrina Sluis
-> Imaging Machines: Google Image Search (workshop)
Combining advances in machine learning, computer vision and high performance computing, Google Image Search represents the latest stage in a much longer history of human attempts to grasp the visual world, from Warburg’s Mnemosyne to Malraux’s Le Musée Imaginaire. Like all search engines, its role is to mediate knowledge, moderate online traffic, and generate new vectors of meaning. By temporarily unifying groups of disparate images hosted on remote web servers, Google Image Search operates as a networked, protological vision machine. However, its exact architecture and ranking algorithms are remain a mystery, concealed by a simple user interface which generates streams of images in exchange for search queries.
As a contemporary imaging machine, what is the image that Google Image Search produces? Is it an archive, a camera, an artwork? What are its limits and aesthetics? In exploring these questions, the workshop will explore a number of artists’ projects which approach the autopoiesis of image search, its logic and technicity. These projects raise questions concerning the semantic gap between human and machine vision, and the recursivity and hyperrelationality of photography in the 21st Century. Through this collective exploration we will ask what is at stake in such systems and the relations between vision, information and knowledge.
-> Desperately Seeking Audience: Hypercuration and the 21st Century Museum (lecture)
Whilst there is presently an ongoing semantic war being waged about the usage of the term ‘curate’, it is worth considering how ‘curation’ has been both diffused and operationalised in computational culture. This lecture will explore on the annexation of curating by social media marketers, and the parallel embrace of content marketing and Google Analytics by contemporary cultural institutions. Through the discourse of contemporary digital marketing, I argue that the digital museum is being re-imagined as a highly branded content channel whose reputation, relevance, and visibility is secured via the hypercirculation of fresh content optimized to keyword searches.