Category: musings

Authenticity is Relative

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For those interested in video game preservation, I highly recommend giving the following article a careful read: “In Search of Scanlines: The Best CRT Monitor for Retro Gaming.” Considering the wave of acquisitions at MoMA my colleagues and I have been spending a whole lot of time thinking about how display hardware shapes the visual experience of a game, and in each case, what should be considered the ideal rendering by which to judge any sort of emulation. Needless to say, I’ve been chatting a bit with Nick Montfort.

I found the article interesting not for its discussion of CRTs, but because Fudoh’s approach is a bit different than most I have encountered. He doesn’t care about CRTs out of concern for historically accurate hardware, and thus image quality. Rather, his desire is to achieve the best possible image. He is obsessed with the signal to the extent that he will modify a console that originally output composite, so that it offers RGB. The quality he is achieving is one that game designers and players would never have seen when designing and playing these games. This is the antithesis of the CRT emulation camp, whose concern is accurate reproduction of an image quality that bears fidelity to consumer grade CRTs of a given game’s period.

Fudoh’s work is impressive to be sure, but is he barking up the wrong tree? On the other hand, does CRT emulation preserve the wrong thing? Is there a hybrid approach that combines these two apparently opposing schools of thought? What do you think?

An overdue update

Dear internet: over the course of the past week, a few people have mentioned that they have heard I was leaving Rhizome. This is not the case. There have, however, been some some wonderful changes in my professional life that I have not quite shared publicly. I’d like to update you, dear reader, on the particulars of these changes – lest misinformation befall you.

As of two weeks ago, I am officially splitting my time between Rhizome and the conservation department of the Museum of Modern Art. I have joined the fantastic team at MoMA to lead on the development of the Digital Repository for Museum Collections – a suite of tools and services that will together form an infrastructure for the effective preservation and conservation management of born-digital materials in the museum’s permanent collection. It is an incredibly exciting project, and I am glad to have the opportunity to help shape its future, and to work with the brilliant team at MoMA.

This is a half-time appointment – I have not left Rhizome. I’m fortunate enough to have colleagues that are open to a little institutional polyamory. I am grateful for this, as things have never been more exciting in Rhizome’s conservation department. We have been hard at work on restoring The Thing BBS – one of the earliest online communities of contemporary artists, and I am pleased to say that a small portion of what we’ve dug up will be on display as part of the New Museum’s next exhibition, “1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.” The exhibition is already partially on view, but opens fully next Thursday, Feb 14th. In conjunction with the exhibition, we are hosting an event in March titled “The Internet Before the Web: Preserving Early Networked Cultures.” I will be in conversation with Wolfgang Staehle (artist and founder of The Thing BBS), and none other than Jason Scott. Needless to say, you might want to reserve your tickets asap.

So – that’s it. Lots of new things… more to come.

On My Own Ambivalence

I have a rocky relationship with the practice of maintaining a personal blog.
There are plenty of people I admire in academia, the arts, and tech, who blog as a form of scholarly communication, yet I have been hesitant to throw my hat into the ring. Fermenting one’s ideas in private is important, and I don’t fancy a public archive of my own evolving naïveté. Yet I envy the masterful and careful bloggers in our midst who have amassed deep compendiums over the years. As someone who spends a good portion of his day pontificating on the web’s history, I hold the value of a public, long-term, personal knowledge repository in high regard. On Saturday in a post celebrating the 10th birthday of waxy.org, Andy Baio shared the three simple ground rules that he laid out when he founded the blog:

1. No journaling, unless it’s relevant to people who don’t know me. Example: “Today I went down to 7-11 and bought a Slurpee. Strawberry is my favorite flavor!”

2. No tired memes, unless I have something to add. Example: “Take this quiz and find out which Smurf you are! I’m Jokey!”

3. Be original.

In the spirit of these three rules, and with the intent of having a place to share my research more frequently and freely, I am newly devoted to slowly cultivating this humble web log, with the hope of shaping it into a repository of careful, if somewhat infrequent dialog.