Intergrams in My Pocket: Case Study Reflections on Digital Literature Description, Portation, and Preservation

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Digital literature authors — particularly those of an experimental bent — are frequently obliged to use multimedia environments whose longevity is questionable at best. When support for such an environment on a new platform is not available, portation of the work may be the most direct strategy for making the work available. An excellent example of such a platform was Hypercard — only available on Macintosh MacOS Classic (and emulators). This paper discusses my experiences in porting Intergrams from Hypercard — first to Windows in 1996, and more recently to Squeak, where it will run on a wide range of platforms. Following on the pioneering recommendations of “Acid Free Bits”, the paper explores the following issues: (1) ability and desirability of digital literature authors to create their own file formats that are open, human-readable, and serve as “texts of description” (in the spirit of Bootz) whose preservation is assured by the simplicity and openness of the file format (as opposed to closed proprietary undocumented file formats often found with multimedia environments). (2) The importance and desirability of using multimedia environments which allow for self description. This allows the texts of description in the author’s own file format to be generated by a single piece of code that can export any number of the author’s works. (3) The importance and desirability of using open source environments to deal with novel user interface challenges, such as the apparent lack of mouseovers in touch-screen environments. (4) Popularity of web development environments does not provide an automatic avenue of escape, as can be seen in the recent issue of collapsing support for Flash. Just because “it runs in the browser!” does not mean there are any fewer preservation issues than for older proprietary stand-alone environments.

Conference_year: 
2013