On May 5, Phi and the MIT Open Documentary Lab presented Update or Die: Future Proofing Emerging Digital Documentary Forms. The conference was dedicated to the crucial issue of preserving digital works, offering several panels and conferences, with over 25 local and international speakers, all experts in their fields. Here are a few of the outstanding lectures that took place during this major event (all the content is available in full in the original English version on our YouTube channel).

William Uricchio, a professor of comparative media studies at MIT and Utrecht University, was given the weighty task of opening the conference with a discussion of the needs and issues related to the preservation of interactive documents. With an interest in the history of the different media over time (photography, film, television, etc.), Professor Uricchio specializes mainly in the concept of beginnings, examining what these beginnings had in common but also what differentiates them and what we can learn from this.

On one side, Caspar Sonnen, curator and festival organizer (including the IDFA DocLab), and on the other, Erwin Verbruggen, project lead at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. In their “Short Introduction to the Interactive Documentary Canon,” the two partners who met at the Open Air Film Festival in Amsterdam presented a few samples of work that caught their attention in relation to the issue under study for the day.

The charming Jepchumba also took part in the conference, presenting a lecture of digital colonialism and the disappearance of digital memory. This African artist and lover of all things digital is the founder and creative director of African Digital Art, a collective, creative space where artists and professionals working in the digital sector can draw inspiration, present their works and contact emerging artists.

Among the many highlights of Update or Die, it is impossible to forget Jason Scott — and his eccentric sartorial style! Perhaps one of the most anticipated names on the slate, Scott is a man who wears many hats: in addition to being an archivist and historian at Internet Archive, he has directed several documentaries on technological culture, including BBS: The Documentary (2005), Get Lamp (2010) and DEFCON: The Documentary (2013). His lecture “Dead Man Beeping: Shouts from the Cutting Edge of Web-Based Emulation” is a must-see.

To explain the best digital art conservation practices, Christiane Paul is the person of the hour. An associate professor at the School of Media Studies, she is also the co-curator of the digital art collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Christiane Paul presented a broad overview of the issue, touching on the research work of The Variable Media and various preservation strategies, such as emulation, migration and reconstitution, and exploring the specific challenges for each type of work.

The day’s second panel, “Policy, or Planning for Posterity,” brought together a few experts and digital preservation pioneers: Dr. Nancy Y. McGovern from MIT Libraries, Janine Steele from the NFB, Chance Coughenour from Google Arts & Culture and Monique Simard from SODEC. Moderated by Julia Kaganskiy from the New Museum, the conversation focused on the future of various interactive documentaries and works and on the role of government institutions in their preservation process.

To view all the videos produced at Update or Die: Future Proofing Emerging Digital Documentary Forms, sign up for our newsletter or check out our YouTube channel.

Photo credit (cover): Jean-Sébastien Dénommé

About Centre Phi
The Phi Centre is a versatile space with venues that adapt to accommodate the event at hand: launches, conferences, seminars, screenings, exhibitions, concerts, performances, interactive installations. It has creative studios and production suites equipped with the latest technology for all artistic needs. It’s a multifunctional centre where art can express itself in its various forms. It’s a space where people can exchange, learn, discover, launch, shoot, record, and more.
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