That Long-Promised White Paper on Software Preservation

So, this paper was finished in the early fall, and I’m only now getting around to making it public. Regretfully, what that means is that some of the paper is out of date. Several important projects and papers, like The Software Preservation Network and the recent paper on emulating digital art objects from Cornell, are not included.

That said, I still think the paper is worthwhile. It considers software preservation in a broad context. It includes strategies like recording users interacting with software, and while all of the strategies discussed may not preserve software in a way that future users can interact with, they do document software as a cultural object. Institutions that have collecting mandates that include software-related materials may find this research useful. Although emulation is becoming more of a feasible option for many institutions, it is important to consider a wide array of preservation and documentation techniques that could prove useful to future researchers.

Software is a part of day-to-day life, and while it is important to preserve software, it is also important to consider what that piece of software’s function is. The impetus for preserving an MMORPG and the impetus for preserving an algorithm from a scientific experiment may be entirely different, and the ways that institutions approach software should reflect that difference.

If I missed a project or if you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

And, here it is – the long-promised white paper.