Ricci Swart
Multimedia 21 Fund
3 Treasury Place
Melbourne, 3002
Simon Pockley

(03) 96511510
8th November 1997

Infrastructure - proposal to Multimedia 21



The generous support (a place to work uninterrupted for 3 years) provided by Cinemedia has allowed me to build the The Flight of Ducks (a World Wide Web site containing important historical material). The site confronts the more difficult and important issues arising from the production of on-line work. One of the outcomes of the research has been to identify and demonstrate the role that the World Wide Web can play in the preservation of digital material.

The National Library of Australia consider the The Flight of Ducks to be of national significance and have been using it as a pilot project for their PANDORA digital preservation project.

At the beginning of 1996 I moved it from RMIT (where it was no longer secure) to Cinemedia, where it now resides as a co-tenant.

At the end of 1997 I will have finished my PhD and my tenure at Cinemedia through the `memorandum of understanding' between Cinemedia and RMIT will end. To date, there is no policy in place for what will happen to digital works produced through this understanding. Nor does there appear to be any deep understanding of the profound changes in outlook and convergent infrastructure that digital work of this kind requires. Most of the business and funding practices seem more suited to the paradigms of film and video production than to the integration of on-line works which are more like living, breathing, proliferating organisms.

Indications of this lack of understanding are that Cinemedia has a Digital Media Library without provision for `digital media', The Multimedia 21 Fund still refers to multimedia as `product' and Cinemedia's business units have no accounting infrastructure which would allow them to operate on-line as commercial entities.

For the purposes of this proposal my main concern is the question : What will happen to The Flight of Ducks ?

If the The Flight of Ducks is to find a permanent home at Cinemedia it will mean that an infrastructure suited to digital work will have to be created. This will require a level of co-ordination, co-operation and curatorial facilitation which does not exist at Cinemedia or anywhere in Australia. Because there are no models to follow and the medium is still in transition, a change in outlook will require courage. Fortunately, this has little to do with technology.

I believe Cinemedia is in a unique position to invent a co-operative and convergent infrastructure for the collection, preservation and presentation of curated (Australian) digital work.

A Draft Proposal

It is proposed that Multimedia 21 co-ordinate and facilitate a meeting which seeks to indentify what is required to create a viable long term curated collection of (Australian) digital media.

I don't know who should attend ?

National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contempory Art, Museum of Victoria, Cinemedia business units concerned with multimedia, Experimenta, Digita, Digital Media Library etc etc.

The first step to finding answers is to ask questions. Here are a few to consider:

Sometimes the answers to difficult questions are right in front of us. The Flight of Ducks is in urgent need of a permanent home. Its scope provides a tangible and demanding example of the kind of problems that can be encountered.

Curating and preserving digital media is a can of worms. Ducks like worms. You may be interested in a paper on-line which looks at some of these issues in more detail. It was written in response to the National Library's desire to capture the The Flight of Ducks . It is called Killing the Duck to Keep the Quack and can be found at: http://www.duckdigital.net/FOD/FOD0055.html.


Simon Pockley

(CC) reserved S.Pockley Feb 1995 The Flight of Ducks 53