Emulation and Knock-off Handbags

When I read Jon Ippolito’s Chapter 8: ‘Generation Emulation’ in his book: Re-Collection: Art, New Media and Social Memory I had mixed thoughts and feelings. On one hand, I thought it was really valuable to capture these differences in the display and presentation of digital media, while on the other hand I wondered if this topic actually deserved a whole chapter. Then I realized I was falling into the generational trap of discounting the difference between emulated work and work displayed on original or period-correct hardware.

I grew up with consoles- and I am an Industrial Designer so I tend to romanticize consumer objects. The idea of a collection of old consoles is very attractive to me. I remember having to blow onto the contacts of NES cartridges to get them to work. I also remember the terrible ergonomics on Sega Genesis controllers. These physical interactions are crucial to the experience of these products. While the original appearance and feel of the hardware is important to me the particulars of the circuit boards aren’t so much. As long the performance of the graphics appears as the original, I don’t feel it matters if the program is being emulated through a more modern machine and operating system. In the practice of archiving digital media I feel it is very important to preserve some instances of original hardware but for public display, emulation is acceptable.

Ippolito talks about a study the Guggenheim museum did for an exhibition called “Seeing Double” (curated Ippolito, Caitlin Jones, and Carol Stringari, March 18- May 16, 2004) that found a contrast in the importance of emulation to people of different age groups and familiarity with technology.

Perhaps my age is starting to show. I find the older people in my life lose the plasticity in their thinking. Speaking for myself, I tend to gravitate to things that are less challenging because I have other challenges in my life that take up more of my time. I just want something that works. Do we give up on abstract thoughts on as we become more burdened?

The issues in emulation may only be important to a small group of scholars somewhere but maybe this discussion unlocks some critical inspiration in someone and we should be mindful of this. In another assigned reading for this week: Darin Barney’s ‘Terminal City’, Barney mentions the difference between living effectively and living well (Barney, 127). Living effectively may mean enjoying the luxury of discussing slightly esoteric topics while living well is being a little ignorant and enjoying our emulated handbags and video game emulators- I’m for both.

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Jon Ippolito. “Chapter 8: Generation Emulation”. In Re-Collection: Art, New Media and Social Memory, edited by Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito.

Barney, Darin. Terminal City? Art, Information, and the Augmenting of Vancouver. In Crow, Barbara, Michael Longford, and Kim Sawchuk, editors. The Wireless Spectrum: The Politics, Practices, and Poetics of Mobile Media. University of Toronto Press. Pp.115-130.

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