Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathPhoto/Byteicon: navigation pathArchive—post/photographic
Culture is our Business (Schaber, Ines)

icon: previous page

led to an intense discussion about to what extent cultural—especially artistic—heritage can be digitally archived. This question can be divided up into two issues: Firstly, whether and if so, how the previous heritage of images can be put into digital form, and secondly, how art forms based on digital media can themselves be archived.

These questions are, by the way, not only posed by museums with regard to the problem of what function virtual museums might have, [76] but—because the difference between original and copy has by no means disappeared—these are also issues for commercial image providers. In view of the increasing significance of data networks, the commercial role of digitalized photographs is growing as opposed to their photochemical predecessors: «The assumption is that, in the near future, electronic reproduction is the only kind that is going to matter. The other assumption in play here is that reproduction is already the only aspect of an image worth owning…. He seeks to control, not photography, but the total flow of photo-data.» [77] The ‹he› in Batchen's statement refers to Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, whose


company Corbis, after acquiring exclusive electronic rights to works by the photographer Ansel Adams and the purchase of the complete Bettmann Archive, ranks amongst the largest providers of digitalized photographs in the Internet. This has problematical consequences: First of all, there is a selection process deciding which images will be digitalized and made available or put up for sale online (because given the resources available in the near future, it will not be possible to digitalize all images). Since it is the Bettmann Archive which contains several of the most well-known press photographs, by carrying out such selection processes Corbis controls visual history itself—an issue which Ines Schaber in «Culture is our Business» examines. And: «Participants who follow the Gates lead can surf an image archive as arbitrarily as people already surf art museums, happily jumping from Rembrandt to ancient Egyptian sculpture to Japanese armor, or from sunsets to stamps to Nobel Prize winners, as the whim takes them. With electronic reproduction, no-one has to care about history as a linear sequence any more.» [78] Batchen is again underscoring the intermedial heterogeneity of the digital archive already described.

icon: next page