What Are We Trying To Save?

As our Greenhouse Studios projects move through their iterations and phases, it is beginning to be time to talk about how to document and preserve the intellectual output. Our current thinking is that preservation talk has to start during the “build” phase, but probably not before then, since insisting that any idea be “preservable” kind of makes the tail wag the dog. But, once we start building something, then it is time to figure out how to preserve it.

The question we ask now is what is the “it” we are trying to preserve? For something to be “scholarship” it has to persist. But, in what form? And what has to persist? We could follow the “FRBR” approach and say that the intellectual content of the so-called work is what matters most, and that preserving it in any form is sufficient. This is, I think, a text centric viewpoint and won’t translate to multi-modal expression, where the intellectual content of the work is just as likely to be a set of scripts or moving images as it is text.

Nevertheless, our requirement to support persistence is not alleviated just because it is difficult and the part of the Greenhouse Studios that I personally like the best is the part where we figure out how to make what are now thought of as alternative formats and means of expression persist over time.

One project is producing a short documentary film in addition to hosting some events and conversations. The film is essentially the work, and we are also preserving the raw footage, still images, and other associated research documents, very much like preserving the raw data for a scientific research project.

A more difficult problem comes from our VR project. This project seeks to tell a story though virtual reality. There are lots of research artifacts, design research, still photography, a “script” for the story, and much, much, more. The VR experience is being created the Unity (https://unity3d.com) game engine. We can preserve the bits so to speak, but that seems a bit of a disappointment to us. One idea we have is to record someone’s in-story experience that can be watched on any browser. That would at least give an indication of what the experience was about, similar to watching a recording of a play, or a performance.


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