Please wait a few moments while we process your request
Please wait...

Lizzie Muller

Towards an oral history of new media art


The vision I propose for an oral history for new media art casts my own work in this area as a contribution to a repository of collections produced by many researchers around the world. The work done for The Giver of Names case study demonstrates that this kind of documentation is valuable and possible but also time-consuming and difficult. To make a significant impact on the way that new media art is understood now and in the future, an oral history would need to pool the efforts of the many researchers and institutions who are interested in audience experience and galvanise others to begin to include this type of work in their documentary processes. The increasing ease of uploading and downloading video content via the Internet makes such a global perspective not only desirable but achievable.

The issues and considerations raised by this paper show that such an initiative would need to strike a delicate balance between openness and flexibility on the one hand, and rigour and structure on the other. It would need to be as open as possible to the many different techniques, approaches and formats of experiential record that would be generated by researchers. This openness would need to be built upon a rigorous insistence on the reflexivity and accountability of the contributing researchers and a clear and consistent system of organisation and cataloguing. An oral history of new media art would need to establish standards of collection and curation that, as this paper has shown, cover a range of areas, including:
- Interesting, high-quality content
- High production values
- Ethically and legally sound records
- Valid records produced by reflexive and accountable methods
- Intelligible records supported by detailed contextual information and cataloguing
The Giver of Names case study has demonstrated that all of these standards are achievable in the context of an individual project, and the challenge implied by the larger endeavour of an online repository of such material would be to achieve such standards across many different cases. The reward would be a powerful reparation of the gap that currently exists in our records of audience experience. Such a resource would ensure the lively existence of today’s artworks in the future as well as a re-balancing of art historical accounts to include the reality — not just the theory — of the audience’s active role in new media art.

Lizzie Muller © 2008 FDL