Towards Archiving a Generative Culture: the Australian Creative Resources Online project

Towards Archiving a Generative Culture: the Australian Creative Resources Online project. This paper explores the possibilities of moving beyond the archiving of digital objects as fixed and unchanging reference points for culture and demonstrates that we can archive those cultural objects but we must also archive the mutations that cultural objects go through as they become new objects over time. Digitization of cultural objects creates a new source of mutability and a new location to generate cultural meanings through the combination, reinvention and serialized appropriation of cultural objects in their ever changing digital milieu. An object then is really fixed in place when it is archived, but it is a living document both of the digital and cultural world. It is not enough then, to just create the ‘archival copy’ with its manifold copies of the digital object, because people will manipulate it, will inscribe it with new meanings, with those meanings’ new points of negotiation, and new interpretations. These new meanings and the changes that occur to the objects over time need to be traced in order for the original meaning to be preserved in relation to the newer meanings. Without the documentation of change, the objects that we digitally archive lose meanings, much like when you move a document from its original context in a paper archive and place it in another context. Without documenting the change in the paper document, you change the meanings both of it, and those knowledges that stand in relation to it. In this paper, I am showing the beta copy of a database engine that is made to track and follow those changes.

In the ACRO project, we archiving the digital detritus of film, photographic, and musical production with an eye to their reuse. The purpose is to provide the common open foundation for future high quality production of cultural objects. We are forced to confront the problem of both derivative, remixed, and novel uses of digital objects. Objects that in fact are in a constant state of multiple use, and thus their meanings are changing in relation to each other. In order to resolve this, we are turning to socially constructed ontologies in order to both track changes over time, so authors can tell us that their contribution is a derivative of another contribution, but also to tag or label these new contributions more thoroughly with their own interpretation. Allowing users to both tag, to discuss and to maintain a glossary of meanings related to their discussion and tagging, allows the ACRO beta to maintain and track the mutations that digital media from within the system. By using microformat data in relation to user constructed data, we hope to operate in parallel relation to the growing standards in the cultural object arena, mapping the microformat and user constructed data into standards compliant metadata.