Sealing a Facebook App in amber

One of the more painful things that happens from time to time is the decommissioning of a digital product. And in a museum this, of course, means trying to ‘preserve’ it.

But how do you ‘preserve a Facebook App’ built for an exhibition?

Cooper-Hewitt’s record breaking Set In Style exhibition of 2011 included the creation of both an iOS App and a Facebook App. The Set In Style Facebook App allowed users to add jewellery from the exhibition to their Facebook photos and share them on their wall and the walls of their friends.

A couple of months ago Facebook changed their security settings for Apps (again) and we were faced with a decision – turn it off, or pay to have the code rewritten to support the security changes. With the exhibition ended we opted to close the App down, but before we did so we decided to make a quick video of it in operation with a ‘real Facebook account’ so that the ‘social side’ of the App could be captured in a way that still screen grabs would not.

Here’s the video.

Some questions still remain.

Where does the ‘record’ for this ‘object’ now live? What ‘metadata’ needs to be associated with the ‘record’? What happens to the source code? Should it be released? If it was released, is the App so heavily reliant upon the infrastructure and sociality of Facebook itself that it would be useless?

(Our newest member of the Lab’s ‘Armory of Nerds’, Aaron Cope, has been thinking about these very same issues in regard to ‘preserving Flickr’ with his project Parallel-Flickr)

We’re interested in these sorts of questions at a meta-institutional level too, as, being ‘the National Design Museum’ we are inevitably going to have to be collecting ‘objects’ that face similar issues soon enough. Indeed, should a design museum be ‘collecting’ the designs of Facebook itself over the years? And how?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *