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The unending lives of net-based artworks: web archives, browser emulations, and new conceptual frameworks

Citation: Post, Colin (2017) The unending lives of net-based artworks: web archives, browser emulations, and new conceptual frameworks. In: Researchers, practitioners and their use of the archived web, 14-16 June 2017, School of Advanced Study, University of London.


Creative Commons: Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Research into net-based artworks is an undertaking divergent from much prior art historical scholarship. While most objects of art history are stable analog works, largely in museum collections, net-based artworks are vital and complex entities, existing on artists’ websites alongside older versions captured in web archives. Scholars can profitably use web archives, browser emulators, and other digital methods to study the history of these works, but these new methods raise critical methodological issues. Art historians must contend with how the artwork changes over time, as well as the ever-evolving environment of the web itself. Probing the piece Homework by Alexei Shulgin as a test case, I investigate the methodological issues that arise when conducting art history research using web archives. In applying these methods, scholars must also attend to the evolving and multiple nature of these artworks. Drawing on the archival theory of Wolfgang Ernst and the records continuum model developed by Frank Upward and Sue McKemmish, I present a framework for conceptualising net-based artworks as plural and heterogeneous archives. This framework is generative of new readings of net-based artworks, accommodates new methods, and can also usefully equip scholars approaching dynamic cultural heritage objects in web archives more broadly.

Creators: Post, Colin and
Subjects: History
Digital Humanities
Divisions: School of Advanced Study: Central Offices
  • 2 June 2017 (accepted)


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