Excerpt from ZZT by Anna Anthropy hosted on kotaku here

In her novel ZZT, Anna Anthropy details the ASCII-laden world of the MS-DOS game ZZT. The book itself is a fantastic read that does a great job of explaining just what it is about ZZT that left such an impact on the author, and there are certain elements at play in ZZTs text worlds and editor that feel like a natural fit for our discussions in class. ZZT was shareware which featured 4 base worlds created by the author of the game, and the game also included the editor that the author created to make his worlds. Because of this, the main draw of ZZT was in its vast amount of UGC (user-generated content), as people spent way more time downloading and making their own boards than they did exploring the 4 base worlds.

Many of these boards are rich with clear and marked authorship. Anthropy notes countless examples of different user-created content, ranging from the technically impressive and groundbreaking maps to the smaller, more personal, yet still powerful worlds. These maps function as artifacts of a bygone era, a concrete outpouring of effort by usually just one individual. Anthropy also periodically notes how difficult it can be today to find any one particular map she’s played before, mentioning how a few in particular that slipped through her fingers (due to a faulty hard disk) haunt her to this day. Archiving these boards seems important to her, and for good reason: to lose these files to the void is to lose raw human experience and effort. She also recounts how difficult and confusing it was trying to wrap her head around the editor at the first, noting that if it wasn’t for documentation and online information she likely wouldn’t have been able to figure it out to the extent that she did. Besides serving as distilled human experience, user-created maps are also useful to those who don’t really know what they’re doing with the editor yet. More examples means more ideas, and ultimately more capable ZZT programmers, creating a positive feedback loop and helping to keep the game alive.

Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines

In a 2009 blog for Duke University Libraries, Kelly Wooten, curator of the Bingham Center Zine Collections, explains why the center was not digitizing their zines. The zines, housed at Duke’s Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, were written by women and girls between the early 1990s and 2009. In the blog, Wooten lays out specific reasons why they’re not digitizing these issues. More generally, she’s looking at how zines are archived. In exploring reasons not to digitize, Wooten addresses four areas: permission, copyright, privacy, and print culture. First, the center has to get in contact with the zines’ creators in order to get their permission; this is difficult because, given that zines are not official published works, sometimes contact info isn’t available, and if it is, it could be outdated, especially for those pre-internet zines. She also points out that, also related to their unofficial status, some of these zines use copyrighted content with or without permission.  In addressing privacy, she considers the audiences of these zines, and just how public their authors wanted these works to be. Bringing up print culture, Wooten notes that many of these zines were created by hand, and therefore hold significance as artifacts in and of themselves, as well as for their content.

This blog is interesting in that it raises questions about the ways in which we archive certain information, particularly information that is relatively recent in history (say, the past 20 years or so). Does an archived item that uses content without permission become invalid as an item worthy of archiving? When does an item shift from being private and personal to being communal and in need of archiving? Are some archived items cheapened by digitization? While the blog is about zines, these questions are certainly appropriate when archiving any items, not simply zines.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.32.14 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent article published by the digital news outlet Quartz examines a glaring issue in the world of museums: archive access. The article, which can be found here, immediately raises the question of what good are items that are buried away. Museums thrive on being able to attract visitors, and the way they accomplish this is based on what they are able to exclusively display. The need for exclusive artifacts seems to have led to a widespread phenomena of high culture hoarding. The logic for participating in this behavior reminds me of the earlier class discussion that highlighted the belief that one day collected items will have use, and it is better to keep them than to risk needing them and being found without them. While museums archives differ from the hoarding of the Bronx resident in the sense that the artifacts have no other use than to be displayed to generate profits, keeping items that are not being used for their intended purpose still evokes a negative reaction from me personally. While the Bronx hoarder doesn’t have many alternatives other than to eventually part ways with his possessions, museums do have the ability to digitize their collections and make them available to the public via the web or other digitally based formats. This presents entirely new functions for archivists, curators, exhibition directors, etc to all consider: Digital Archival Exhibitions. As most industries have had to do to keep up with current technologies, museums could greatly benefit from reimagining how they accomplish their goals by taking advantage of digital affordances and incorporating them into their museum designs and experiences. By not not being restricted to the analog ways of approaching artifacts being displayed/accessed, museums have an opportunity to simultaneously present entire archives that they previously have not been able to allow the public to enjoy.

 

As we close the story of codex, I began thinking about how old archives are themselves. Museums, a type of archive that focuses on a variety of objects, have been around for a very long time. The oldest known museum, made in 350 B.C., belonged to a Babylonian king and his daughter. The king, Nabonidus, was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, but more interestingly, the world’s first archaeologist. The daughter and curator, Ennigaldi, brought the items into the palace and labelled each in three different languages, but the museum was not open to the public. The items were already 700 to 1600 years old when first added to the museum.

I think this museum is quite interesting because it uncovers some of archiving’s origins. From this we know that archives and archaeology were creations of the royal class, and that they were very personal efforts to collect already ancient items. It was a father-daughter pastime to collect and preserve ancient items. Was the museum just a pastime, or was it an endeavor to save the history of those before them.  I wonder at how they would react having their collection rediscovered over two-thousand years later and put on display to the public.

original article

Science fiction fanzines to be digitized as part of major UI initiative

three fanzine magazine covers

Simiilar to Georgia Tech’s own attempt at archiving fanzines, the University of Iowa had digitalized around 10,000 science fiction fanzines in the James L. “Rusty” Hevelin Collection, lending a hand in confirming the popularity of the science fiction genre in fandom. Modeled after the Amateur Press Association’s method, the process composes of transcription, annotation and indexation, much like how our fanzine archiving will work. The time it takes to digitalize is approximately two years, so we should be seeing the fanzine scans becoming available sometime this year. The most distinguishing aspect of this process, and honestly most convenient, is the ability for users to interact with a “full-text searchable resource,” which in this day and age is often taken for granted. Unfortunately, with only an estimate of around thirty interested fans to work on the archiving process, the time it takes for the entire collection of fanzines to be archived may be even longer. Just like how our own class sought out specific roles, it will require their team to divide into content coordinators, writers, and developers to transcribe, annotate and index the fanzines. Hopefully, this project, both the digitization and archival processing, will become more commonplace in order to bring even just our recent history into the modern era.

At this point we have discussed or encountered many forms of archives.  After much discussions about the video game as an archival medium and digital archives, I began to wonder what exactly does this mean not only for the evolution of what we view as archives, but of the actual archivists themselves as well as the information that is archived.  First, I want to look at the change in archives themselves.  As we saw with the webpage archive, digital archives require less space and can generally house more “documents”.  This seems pretty straight forward in the realm of physical housing.  However what about the archivists and people in control of these new found digital archives?  For example we think of an archivist as a person who physically controls and organizes information within the archive and to an extent protects these documents.  But what happens to these people when the physical body of work no longer exists and instead a digital file on a hard drive?  Should then to the archivist transition into more of a computer expert of sorts who can control codes that organize, analyze, and acquire information for the digital archive or has expertise should the hard drive crash?  Or is it still important for the archivist to take the same approach as a physical archive and either add the technology aspect to the job or even approach archiving as a team in which one is the computer expert while the other is a content expert?  Secondly, what about the actual information contained in the archives? Living in such a materialistic society, in seems to me that we place so much importance first on the rarity of the document and how easily we can access the document and secondly on the actual content of the document.  If we take this physical documents into a digital world with easy access, would the importance shift from the physical embodiment of the work to the actual content of the document or what it represents.  For example, Chaucer’s works we looked at in class.  Would the popularity fade or shift form the simple two publications of the work and the fact they are housed in a museum in England and most people will never gain physical access to the work or even touch it for that matter to simply the historical importance of works first being published in English?  Or in contrast would the shift to a digital archive increase the rarity and importance of physical archives that house the works because now even more people have access to the content of the work but denied physical access?

In the article “The History and Characteristics of Zines” by Fred Wright, he referred the quote of Larry-bob which says that magazine and zines are completely opposite. Magazines constitute the negative values relating to money, and money alone; whereas, zines is purely about personal love, and passionate on particular subject without money motivation. Zines originated and evolved from fanzine which was originally known as “fan magazines”, and distinguished from the prozine. Fanzine is created by fan of fantasy/science-fiction with these characteristics: noncommercial, nonprofitable, nonprofessional, and irregular small run publication, interactions between reader-reader, and reader-writer, community unity on a specific interest. However, “many fanzine writers aspired to write in the prozines someday, and many did”. So were the fanzines created for writer to get foundation and attract the prozine they aspire to involve? Not only the interests, and hierarchy of producers and consumers change but also the original perspectives of money. I understand that it is not all of them was like that; however, the word “many” indicated it is not a small number. It is just like a pre-pharmacy undergrad who interview for his shadowing says that he wants to do this just because his passion on pharmacy, and desire to involve more in the field; and money is not problem. However, what he wants is not just the “get-to-know-the-career” or passion expression, but the experience, resume, and recommendation for his latter professional positions. Wright said “there was no longer a quiet differentiation between fanzines and prozines.” Besides that, it starts referring to commercially produced publications “for” rather than “by” fans, and zine started to be adopted. Nowadays, zines, fanzines, and magazines still maintain their own qualities, and have the distinct borders. Line between zines and fanzines is sometimes confusing but the distinct difference is that fanzine has hierarchy of producers and consumers whereas egalitarian in zine.

 

As mentioned in class, the ending of Codex is a letdown. All of that work just for the ending to be anti-climatic. Does this mean that Edward and Margaret’s work was all for naught? I would argue no. While the book’s ending was not very rewarding, the reward was secretly hidden in the journey along the way and the discovery of the Gervase codex. In other words, the Gervase itself was not the prize. The prize was the work to find it.

We have encountered the reward as the discovery with the E.T. Atari games. The prize, in this case, wasn’t the game itself. It was the ability to say “I found them. The legend is true!”

By the end of the book, Edward and Margaret were able to say the exact same sentiment, which made the work worthwhile. Codex featured both rewards: the ability to say “I found it!” and the work to accomplish the task. This is the idea behind “The Reward is Not the Object”.

The concept of a rewarding journey and discovery is even seen with fanzines. Fanzines, being fan-made magazines, are only popular within a small sub-group/fandom. Generally, authors and researchers of fanzines typically do not gain money for this contribution to the the fandom. So, it can also be argued that if the fanzine will never be sold or read by many, then the reward of creating a fanzine includes finding and compiling a cohesive archive of resources. Fanzines are also unique in the sense that they are not majorly produced. As a result, it is more common that a fanzine can be “lost” or just rare. Owning one of these rare fanzines is more important than the contents of the fanzine itself.

Emulators exist for most consoles today, except for the more recent systems. It is incredible how decades of gaming consoles can be reduced to virtual consoles on our personal computers. Emulators allow us to play all of these games from previous generations flawlessly, however there is a sense to me that it will never be a complete replacement.

Taking a dab at the Atari emulator, I tried Adventure and Space Invaders on my computer. I was able to play the game just fine with my keyboard controls. However, using a keyboard reminded me of how much of the sensation of playing on an Atari is in the joystick. The Atari’s defining component is its singular joystick and button which required two hands to use. Replacing this with the keyboard seemed to remove me from playing the Atari game to playing a recreation of the Atari game for the computer.

I remember growing up, playing Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64 was related to the specific controller that I used. To enter the cheat codes in the game, it was a process that involved using both hands and my chin to be able to perform the correct sequence of inputs. Playing this game on an emulator, the complex symphony between my chin and both hands is replaced by a few simple keyboard strokes. In some other games, it sometimes is replaced with automated scripts enabling them.

Playing games on emulators in my opinion is a great way to keep the content and stories available to everyone. There are many video games that told some of the greatest stories throughout the game play. Emulators have made it possible for later generations to experience these legendary video games without the barrier of the physical hardware. However, I still believe there is a need to preserve the physical hardware as much as possible to retain the tactile sensations of gaming through the generations.

This parallels with the ideas of preserving physical books, rather than simply extracting the text. There are a lot of additional meaning to books that can be understood from the binding, paper, ink, etc. Likewise, the physical inputs that we utilize for video games plays a part in our understanding of each gaming experience.

While reading “The History and Characteristics of Zines” by Fred Wright and ” ZINES – zine history, the zine network, topics, and teaching zines in classrooms” by Elke Zobl, I noticed that both articles make a distinction between the words “fanzine” and “zine”. However, the similarities seem to end between the two articles ends in my mind. Zobl uses the word ‘zine’ more as a part of a two-word idea (i.e. – Fan Zine, Punk Zines, etc.) that is purely just how to describe what the publication will talk about. In Wright’s article, the difference between “Fanzine” or “Fan Zine” compared to “Zine” is something that is distinguishable enough to tell the reader or audience the kind of person who creates the work is. Wright states that the common view among zine publishers is that, “…magazines are produced for money, and money alone; the magazine supplies a demand in the marketplace and would not exist if there were not money to be made…” , while proceeding to say that zine publishers are the “antithesis” of magazines and free from the corruption of money.

This distinction made me think on why the two articles differ in distinguish between the two words. Wright states that they’re similar words but have a distinctive difference, similar . He also alludes that zines only have the relation to the self made publications made during revolutionary times (or at least it seemed to read that way to me). Zobl just relates both words with the brief reference to the same publications, specifically mentioned Martin Luther.

I find it odd that the Wright article does its best to put down the use of fanzines as a word for describing people that make a zine for their own reasons, especially when one of the main points is that fanzines need consumers, while zines only take money to “…sustain the zine a little longer…”. The article continues to berate that there’s very distinct differences between the products. It’s particularly odd when compared to the Zobl article which see the choice from fanzine to zine just a natural progression of word shortening.

Why does the word fanzine have garnered enough irritation from people that are more or less doing the same work, just for differing topics? Is this due to the “egalitarian” mindset they have chosen or just a way to differentiate from the past? From the way Wright describes it, if a person who creates a zine (and therefore creates a world “unto themselves”) and then decides to sell copies for any price, then the zine would become a fanzine it seems. Even with the acknowledgement that they share similar qualities, it seems odd to make a distinction based solely on a supply demand argument since both cater to very similar or even the same markets.

To me, it seems like the two words are just part of the same sub-species, the difference similar to the difference between long or short-hair cat breeds. They look different at first, but are the same thing overall.