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A variable media class in the New Media Department at the University of Maine this term introduces undergraduates to concepts of new media preservation and gives them hands-on experience with some of its tools.

Raymond LinuxwarsThe NMD205 syllabus includes a range of preservation strategies such as emulation, migration, and reinterpretation. As part of their coursework, students study technical vulnerabilities in well known new media artworks, resurrect an obsolete game using an emulator, and create new works based on reinterpreting or remixing works by other students in the class.

NMD205 students use The Pool to find works to remix and establish relationships among related works that can be tracked long after the course is over. This term U-Me students are joined in The Pool by students from UC-Santa Cruz, opening up their work to feedback from a wider range of participants.

ABOVE: Joe Raymond’s Linux Wars, a remix of the vintage game Space Invaders from NMD 205.

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Wired LogoAuthor and ephemeral-media expert Bruce Sterling noted the launch of the Forging the Future Web site last week in his blog for Wired magazine, Beyond the Beyond.

As the originator of the famed “Dead Media List,” Sterling knows more than just about anybody about the problem of technical amnesia. Acknowledging the speedy obsolescence of contemporary digital formats, Sterling asks:

You know why people don’t shout this from rooftops? Because this forced obsolescence used to pay the computer industry handsomely. Yes, it used to. Now you look at the half-collapsed squelette full of scary, echoing absences and, yes, “Gothic High Tech.”

Exactly why we need to move beyond short-term technical fixes and toward longer-term paradigms of preservation. Of course, Forging the Future aims to offer tools as well as hope, as Sterling notes:

They’re not just mournfully Utopianizing! God bless ’em, they’re trying to build stuff!

With luck, we won’t let Bruce down.

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New Media in the White CubeForging the Future principals Christiane Paul and Carol Stringari, as well as fellow travellers Sarah Cook and Steve Dietz, present Christiane’s new anthology “New Media in the White Cube” at 5:30pm today at Eyebeam Atelier in New York. The book includes essays on variable media presentation and preservation by the assembled speakers as well as Forging members Caitlin Jones and Jon Ippolito.

Perhaps Eyebeam is more friendly to new media than many of the art world’s white cubes, but its proximity to nearby Chelsea galleries and New York museums makes this a good venue to discuss many of the subjects raised in the book, from whether to stockpile installation equipment to how to display Internet art in a gallery.

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Still Water Senior Researcher Craig Dietrich chaired the panel “Born-Digital Scholarship: New Strategies, Projects, and Possibilities” at HASTAC III: Traversing Digital Boundaries, University of Illinois, April 21st, 2009.

Along with introducing the panel, Craig presented an overview of ThoughtMesh and the Variable Media Questionnaire to an audience of digital humanities scholars and tools builders. ThoughtMesh, a system developed for Still Water, and the VMQ, produced by Forging the Future, are similar in their “bottom-up,” folksonomic networks creating useful links between media and promoting better preservation through distribution.

Also in April, Forging the Future researcher Caitlin Jones participated in an expert meeting at ICKAmsterdam from the 14th to the 19th. This meeting brought together dancers, choreographers, and preservation experts to explore new strategies for sustaining the most ephemeral medium of all–dance.

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More Forging presentations: Berkeley’s Rick Rinehart presented “The Persistence of Memory” at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), held in Chicago from December 9-10, 2008.

Meanwhile Still Water’s Jon Ippolito discussed the variable media approach to the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres at a meeting of the FGT Foundation in New York from 23-25 January.

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