In considering archives and collections, we’ve generally been exploring digital simulcra of real artefacts and those that are ‘born digital’. However, some artefacts are not only intrinsically digital, but also inhabit a intersection of shapeshifting networks and adaptive interpretations. Software artefacts in particular can only be considered in relation to hardware platforms, programming languages and notably versions and iterations.

A recent retrospective on Medium, explores several software milestones, including Pacman, Microsoft’s Word and Adobe’s Photoshop, each of which has influenced, impacted and shaped culture in extraordinary ways. How should such artefacts be collected and archived for posterity, research and reflection?

Not long ago the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum (part of the Smithsonian) acquired an iPad app called Planetary for its collection:

Museums have a tricky time of it, because they need to put pins in things, assign names and numbers, and integrate them into larger historical collections. In acquiring Planetary, the Cooper-Hewitt was (very consciously) asking the question: What kind of art is software? How do we name it? Their work is like the work of lexicographers, who must try to encapsulate spoken language into dictionaries, even though language is huge, changing, and ever-moving, like clouds. It’s impossible but also incredibly useful.

More at…