Whilst many artefacts today are produced, distributed and consumed solely in digital form, this situation is not completely new.  Artefacts from previous eras have also been ‘born’ digital.  The advent of micro- or home computers in the mid-1970s and 80s, for instance, saw a range of digital artefacts produced, amongst them digital games, demos, and other early software.  These objects are complex and interesting as are the preservation challenges they pose.  To issues of hardware and software deterioration are added characteristics such as real-time responsiveness, highly-invested fan communities, and the earliness with which decisions about significance and preservation strategies must be arrived at.  Games preservation is emerging as an experimental domain where some of the thorniest issues in born digital cultural heritage are confronted.  No longer a niche endeavour limited to those who played titles ‘back in the day’, developments in games preservation and related fields are of relevance to many different cultural forms, their scholars and custodians.  Playability also creates interest in and enlivens the preservation message, making it easier for non-specialists to grasp.

We invite proposals for papers, panels, and workshops for an international conference on The Born Digital and Cultural Heritage, to be held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, 19-20 June, 2014.  Recognising that born digital artefacts often require multiple sets of expertise, we are keen to receive proposals from researchers and practitioners in the range of disciplines, spheres of practice and institutional contexts concerned with born digital heritage.  This includes libraries, archives, museums, galleries, moving image institutions, software repositories, universities, and more besides.  Proposals might be theoretical, practical, policy, or otherwise oriented.  Case studies of innovative practices, papers based on research with born digital artefacts, and new institutional approaches are equally welcome.

Possible topics include:

  • Born digital histories
  • Born digital items as cultural heritage
  • Changing notions of the collection
  • Vernacular digitality
  • Selection, appraisal, deposit
  • Jurisdictions, overlaps, gaps
  • Resourcing, funding, partnerships
  • Archiving of media arts, architecture, broadcasting, etc
  • Relation of born digital preservation to digitisation programs
  • Inter-agency cooperation, federations and networks
  • Models of collaboration, outside experts, volunteers
  • Access and exhibition
  • Legal issues, intellectual property, orphaned works, legal deposit
  • Workforce, capacity building, training
  • New preservation and conservation techniques
  • Case Studies and Best Practices: Processes, Metadata, Systems,
    Services, Infrastructures



Thomas Apperley and Jussi Parrika

The ‘Born Digital’ Archive: Rethinking Platform Studies Methodological Heuristic

Platform studies is a recent and prominent scholarly methodology for ‘born digital’ histories. The platform studies book series was introduced in 2009 with Racing the beam (Montfort & Bogost, 2009). The project was left deliberately open, but the book is the series retained a few common features: 1) a focus on a single platform; 2) a detailed investigation of the technologies; 3) a concern with how platforms are embedded in culture and society, and the reciprocal relations between platforms and culture/society.

Through a critical engagement with platform studies from the perspective of media archaeology this paper will argue that the method implicitly establishes an archive relevant to a particular platform from the available materials. This may include a collection of software, developer interviews, contemporary magazine and news articles, and even other paratexts.  How this particular archive is produced varies from project to project, but the process of producing the archive shapes the perception of the platform immensely. This archive established through platform studies acts as a methodological heuristic that produces a historic and physical entity—the platform—that can be examined and mapped as a stable node within an otherwise unruly network of material and social/cultural relations.

In this paper we argue that by examining how the platform studies archive is produced highlights the role that the preservation of games and software has in shaping scholarly understanding of platforms and their historic context. Furthermore, platform studies archives strongly indicate that how ‘born digital’ texts are understood is contextualized through other contemporary non-digital texts, like magazines and box and cabinet art.

Keywords: digital archive, digital game, media archaeology, platform studies