In this day and age, more information is produced on a daily basis than ever before in the history of literate civilizations. A large part of this information comes in the form of digital or digitized documents. In order to be useful to future generations, these documents need to meet the requirement that has applied to archival records on paper for centuries: trustworthiness, which implies the reliability and the authenticity of the document. The traditional approaches to ensure and assess trustworthiness have proven inadequate for digital documents. These are generated in fluid contexts, spread at a rate too fast to monitor, using various technologies and often non-formalised procedures. This applies to text-based information, but also to multimedia documents that pose extra challenges. Music is less and less considered a medium on its own: inter- and cross-media works are being created, with a heavy technological component, where the role of interaction is paramount. As a result, much of the multimedia (e.g. audio, video) that is currently being stored for future reference is basically unworthy of trust or cannot be proven to be so, which is eventually the same thing.
Digital documents contain the expression of our present culture, in the form of inter-personal and institutional communication, private and public contracts, opinions and emotions. Therefore, archives are not the only institutions concerned with the preservation of and access to digital (and, of course, analogue) documents, but they must ensure their trustworthiness, which includes identifying the actors who are accountable for the correct execution of the procedures.
The content of such documents cannot be entirely disregarded in favor of a formulation of the problem in merely technological terms. A debate on approaches to and methodologies for the preservation of digitized and digital documents must not be limited to technical equipment and settings. Digital philology provides a locus for this debate, by referring to two main aspects of digital documentary heritage: on the one hand the creation of digital resources (from digitisation to cataloguing) and digital source criticism on the other.
When it comes to the digitisation of audiovisual resources, the hurried but still far too slow battle against the degradation of carriers and the obsolescence of playback technologies has somewhat distracted the attention of the media archives community from establishing thorough, widely applied methods for quality control on digitised audio and video. The risk is indeed to end up in a situation where large collections of digital data cannot prove their trustworthiness, which is a crucial issue in re-using those resources.
When it comes to digital source criticism, the methods and tools that philologists (and musicologists, linguists, historians, etc.) use to evaluate information during their investigation have a long tradition for printed texts and visual corpora, but they are still lacking to a large extent for digital (multimedia, therefore complex) resources.
So, are the classical tools and methods still usable in the digital domain? How does the fact that in the digital age making an exact copy is possible, affect these tools and methods? What should new tools and methods look like? How do the content-wise and technical discussions in this matter interact?
This call provides an opportunity to survey the field fifteen years after the publication of the special issue Preserving electroacoustic music in this Journal (Vol. 30, no. 4, 2001). That special issue was focused on tape music; now it is time to take another step forward, including a philological approach to multimedia and interactive (art)works.
Plan of the Issue
The volume will be divided in two sections:
- Section 1 – Theoretical papers presenting the open problems related to “digital philology” (authenticity, accuracy, reliability and trustworthiness of digital objects), focusing on the preservation and restoration of musical and multimedia works.
- Section 2 – Reports, experiences, contributions, and reflections from the main sound archives that currently are engaged in preservation projects or have considered the issue of digital philology.
As the subject is cross-disciplinary par excellence, the papers may represent a variety of theoretical perspectives and different methodological approaches. We encourage submissions examining all areas of active and passive preservation and restoration of audio/multimedia documents, in particular:
- Digital philology: new concepts, methods and tools;
- Preservation of audio documents: principles, guidelines, approaches, reflections;
- Preservation of multimedia documents: challenges and possibilities;
- Preservation of interactive (art)works;
- Audio signal restoration;
- Digital representation of human-machine interaction;
- Computational paradigms for audio archives;
- Music information retrieval;
- Metadata in audio/multimedia archives;
- Copyright and privacy issues in preservation and distribution;
- Studio reports from the main audio/multimedia archives involved in original preservation projects.
The papers must be submitted following the guidelines detailed in:
Authors are encouraged to submit animations, movie files, sound files or any additional information for online publication:
- Paper submission: 1 October 2017
- Author notification: January 2018
- Final copy: May 2018
- Publication: September 2018