[-empyre-] -empyre- bios | listserv as historical document

Jon Ippolito jippolito at maine.edu
Fri Jun 28 05:17:28 EST 2013

I've lurked on empyre since the early 2000s, starting as a new media artist and Guggenheim curator, and now an Associate Professor of New Media at the University of Maine. As a co-founder of Still Water (http://still-water.net/), I've helped build The Pool, ThoughtMesh, the Cross-Cultural Partnership, and an ecovillage on the Maine coast.

On empyre I've probably been most outspoken about future threats to new media, such as copyright lockdown, academic co-optation, and especially technological and cultural obsolescence--all specters that have haunted my own creative work. I have the privilege of being an advisor on Tim Murray's Preservation and Access Framework for Digital Art Objects at Cornell.

This preservation research dovetails well with the new Digital Curation program I've helped start this year at the University of Maine (http://DigitalCuration.UMaine.edu). All the online courses are online; in addition to a two-year graduate certificate, we host periodic hit-and-run events. One of our webinars last spring featured Christiane Paul speaking about the Douglas Davis case profiled this month in The New York Times.

Since we're talking about the historical role of a particular email list, we shouldn't forget the threat of academic myopia. Don't get me wrong: books and articles have a long shelf life and have made important contributions to the understanding of our emerging field over the last three decades. I myself am co-authoring the book Re-collection with Richard Rinehart this coming year (http://re-collection.net).

But it's critical not to forget the role that listservs and other informal networks of communication have played in this field. One arena where this plays out is in academic promotion and tenure guidelines, which until recently tended to ignore the Internet altogether. At the University of Maine, we explicitly wrote ours to embrace contributions to online discussions and other dialogic forms of scholarly communication and artistic intervention. These "New Criteria for New Media" became one of the most downloaded articles of Leonardo magazine:


Re-collection argues that museums and textbooks aren't yet very good at reconstructing the historical context for creative work. Fortunately, a few universities and archives have given communication networks like empyre the weight they deserve. When I consulted the prestigious Langlois Foundation's research database in 2005 I was pleased to find numerous citations from email lists and Web sites. For example, although Alex Galloway has authored journal articles and books from prestigious publishers like MIT, the two documents that represented his writing in the Langlois database were both from email lists. Since then, the Internet archive's Jason Scott has done important work rescuing historic BBSs. 

I hope this time capsule of empyre's can draw further attention to the role of electronic dialogue in shaping creative and critical expression.


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