We are just beginning to grapple with the question of what it means to collect and archive work that is based in such a fluid substrate. In theory, digital files can be easily and perfectly copied. In practice, technological obsolescence, mutability due to dynamic interactivity, and the unbounded qualities of networked space all conspire to complicate both the ability and possibly even the desirability of collecting and archiving "new media."
Nevertheless, important early efforts, significant and accomplished works of art, are literally disappearing--wiped from our collective hard drive of memory. The Walker's Digital Arts Study Collection is a nascent attempt to harness the institutional imperative to successfully preserve--selfish memes that we are--this most ephemeral of media and its related contexts.
We begin in 1998 with three important projects: the pioneering artists' Web site, äda'web, co-founded in 1995 by Benjamin Weil; Shu Lea Cheang and others' 1996 telematic installation and Web site, Bowling Alley; and a 1998 online survey exhibition, Beyond Interface, which includes many of the most significant Net artists working today.
My thanks to all who have so graciously agreed to participate in this experiment.