24The Nuts and Bolts of Handling Digital Art

Ben Fino-Radin


During the short timeframe in which there has been a discourse on the conservation of digital art, ethical, philosophic, economic, and institutional issues have been extensively discussed. It is surprisingly rare, though, to find detailed technical studies of actual on-the-ground, hands-on conservation of digital works of art, either as artwork-centric case studies, or as a general technical overview of day-to-day practices. This belies the fact that such conservation work is in fact being conducted in institutions collecting digital art. The problem is due partially to the fact that it is quite common for specialists to be temporarily contracted, from outside the conservation field, for assisting with the conservation of complex digital artworks. The technical knowledge and skills of such specialists, however, rarely penetrate the scholarly discourse of such practices, and thus, such discourse is rarely grounded in hard technical fact. A truly deep material understanding of digital art has yet to permeate the conservation field in the way it has in the older and more canonized mediums of analog video and film.

The intent of this chapter is to serve as a thorough introduction and guide to the fundamental goals, concepts, and theories of the conservation of digital works of art, and to then delve fully into a survey of tools, methods, and practices used in the day-to-day care of these works—drawing from fields ...

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