chapter  12
19 Pages

The Afterlife of Software

ByMichael Stevenson, Robert W. Gehl

Death on the internet is not limited to human death. The business model of planned obsolescence, the technical work of preserving old websites, systems, and applications, as well as a cultural emphasis on the new and immediate all combine to make the internet a place where many software technologies have gone to die. Networked modes of living engender networked modes of loss, and a key question is how our connection to the past is reconfigured when software dies. In terms of digital preservation strategies, emulation may also be distinguished from migration, or periodically moving data and software to new environments, “rewriting” them as required. Software does not end with source code, nor with electronic pulses producing material changes in underlying hardware and storage media. If bottom-up, continuous preservation is the way forward, then software’s afterlife will depend not just on the work of a few heritage institutions.