41st Annual Meeting – Electronic Media Session – June 1st – “The Role of the Technical Narrative for Preserving New Media Art” by Mark Hellar

Mark Hellar used the example of the website artwork “Agent Ruby“, acquired by SFMoMA in 2008, and how the use of a technical narrative has helped with the continued preservation of this evolving work of art.
The “Agent Ruby” work was interactive, so it required many components that worked together.  The technical narrative had 4 parts:
1.  A high level functional description of the artwork
2.  Modular examination of components and how they work as a system
3. Detailed description of the artwork as it exists on acquisition, and how the components serve the operation.
4.  Analysis of current technology and longevity
“Agent Ruby” is an avatar made up of 22,000 entries that create Ruby’s personality.  Visitors interact with Ruby online in a chat setting. The archive of the work from 2001-2009 of visitor interactions was an 80 GB text file. There were some non-essential components that were archived like the original interface and a 3-D model and Hellar discussed how these types of artworks have many components and how the obsolescence of one component (like Flash which is now unsupported on an iPhone) will require creative solutions to allow the work to continue to function.
A migration plan was discussed with the artist, and it was interesting to note that the artist did not want the AIML Interpreter to be updated, even though when Ruby is asked “Who is the President of the United States” she answers “George Bush” the artist said about this, “Ruby will learn”.