by Lozana Rossenova


The rapid pace of change in the field of digital technologies, resulting in obsolete environments and devices and the development of new patterns of interaction between users and computers, creates multiple challenges for the design of digital archives and the long-term provision of access to digital artefacts of cultural value. The primary case study of this PhD project—Rhizome’s archive of net art, the ArtBase, and its associated history of curatorial and preservation activities—opens up multiple sets of questions closely connected to the issue of defining what constitutes the art object in the archive. Unlike the containable formats of linear text-, image-, or video-based media, net art works are not single digital objects, but rather assemblages, dependent on specific software/hardware environments to be executed and rendered. They oftentimes change over time and require specific user input in order to be performed. These particular properties add complexity to the efforts of any institution to collect, preserve, and make such works readily accessible to users. This practice-based PhD project seeks to contribute new knowledge to the field of digital archive design by addressing the question: How can the archive's interface facilitate access to net art works in their native environment—online, while providing possibilities for informed user interaction and intervention? The embedded position at Rhizome provides the opportunity to work closely with Rhizome’s preservation team, and the wider Rhizome community, towards prototyping and iteratively developing a new infrastructure and interface design framework for the archive.

This project is a collaborative practice-based PhD between the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University and Rhizome, supported by the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards 2016.

The thesis accompanying this PhD project is available open access and can be downloadedhere.