Title

Comparing born-digital artefacts using bibliographical archeology: a survey of Timothy Leary's published software (1985–1996)

Publication Date

6-1-2019

Document Type

Article

Department

Information

Publication Title

Information Research

Volume

24

Issue

2

Abstract

Introduction. This paper presents bibliographical archaeology as a method for comparing unique characteristics among many copies of the same computer software program. The process is demonstrated using celebrity psychologist Timothy Leary's Mind Mirror software as a case study.
Method. After retrieving a suitable corpus, data are examined for patterns, and emergent patterns are interpreted using historical inference. This approach builds on Dalbello-Lovric's case for bibliographical archaeology, expanding it to include new consideration for the unique qualities of born-digital artefacts.
Analysis. Each artefact is classified according to publication date and presence of supporting documentation, before introducing historical sources for additional context.
Results. Variations among copies of the same software artefact are found to proliferate well after the objects' initial date of publication. Bibliographical archaeology succeeds in highlighting and contextualising features of an artefact that were previously overlooked.
Conclusions. Findings support a media-archaeological view of born-digital artefacts, and bibliographical archaeology is shown to provide a programmatic approach in identifying significant archaeological characteristics among artefacts that have yet to be exhaustively studied.

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