There has been significant progress in expanding traditional archival concepts such as provenance and in developing new preservation paradigms with consideration for the notions of performativity and presentation, both within Rhizome’s own practices and in the larger field of digital cultural heritage. Yet there are still aspects of the construction and mediation of culture through digital interfaces that remain problematic. Digital interfaces are cultural artifacts themselves – constructed through the collaborative work of designers, developers and institutional stakeholders – and therefore subject to the same issues of cultural discourse and interpretation that digital archives need to address, too. Moving beyond the search and retrieve “objective” model and towards an expanded context of representation, which allows for, and indeed encourages, multiple views and interpretations is an ongoing project within the digital humanities (Drucker, 2013) and will require concentrated efforts among both practitioners and researchers. Nevertheless, the case of the online archive of internet art and some of the tools and strategies developed by organisations such as Rhizome demonstrate possible steps towards a more versatile practice both in the field of archival science, as well as interface design.
Lozana Rossenova is a PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image and her research is a collaboration between London South Bank University and Rhizome in New York.