Session 3: Born Digital

  • Session 3: 1:30-12:20

    Born Digital

    Alice Prael, UMD Libraries

  • Categories of born digital media
    • Email
    • Websites
      • E-publications
      • Blogs
    • Legacy media
      • Floppy discs
    • Oral histories
    • Music
    • Art
    • Movies
    • Games
    • Code
  • How do we curate our own digital archives?
    • Social media profiles as primary sources
    • We don’t necessarily control what we are producing and that may disappear
  • Preservation of oral history
    • Can we adopt preservation procedures to other forms of history?
    • CDs and other forms of media don’t last as long as anticipated
    • Anna: “fallibility of CDs/DVDs”—what does this mean for information recording, storage, submission, transfer etc?
    • Ironically, the most long-lasting format is paper
      • Transcribe as quickly as possible; the thought of dating and migration and formatting is sometimes an obstacle
    • Limited grant funding for archives and large institutions
    • Sometimes people consent to having their interviews transcribed with the stipulation that no one sees the transcription—only hear the audio
    • Transcription software tends to be better for audio than video
    • Is a transcription considered a primary source if it is derived from audio?
      • How do we account for errors?
      • You lose data when you transcribe it—miss tonality, inflection, dialect, etc. Interpretation is required when you do that
    • There are problems with analog formats in any field lasting longer than digital formats
      • Constant migration of formats
  • Issues of discovery
    • “People’s minds don’t work the way databases are structured”-Glenn
    • How can data be reorganized for purposes of discovery?
  • Race against obsolescence—by the time something is digitized or preserved, the means of preservation will be obsolete
    • You can’t just save a file, you have to save the whole ecosystem
    • Virtual environments to simulate older operating systems
    • Emulation is another layer of artificiality, but can extend the half life
      • Software is pretending to be hardware but it can never perfectly copy what hardware can do
  • Is preserving 99% of the data better than migrating the data every 10 years?
    • Is using an emulator going to combat data loss?
    • What are acceptable preservation rates?
      • Illusion of what the rate should be based on letter writing habits of earlier generations
      • Juxtaposition of being able to keep much less of much more material
    • Cost-benefit analysis
  • LOC National Digital Stewardship Group
    • Project now being outsourced?
  • How does globalization affect digital information?
    • It’s easier to disseminate and reproduce information
    • CERN has so much digital storage that they said they would hold all of the records of the EU government
      • BUT they’re not performing any kind of curation! Oh no!
  • Is it really necessary to digitize everything?
    • Even ephemera from years ago are still sources of information about the past—historians can find value in anything
      • Does this mean we have to preserve all of our ephemera today?
    • Documentation is disappearing in rush to meet quotas
    • We need things digitized at a quick rate but people don’t want to pay for labor
    • Government obligations? Security and trust?
      • What is the responsibility of information professionals?
      • Deleting emails—malicious?
    • Emails present issues of appraisal—what’s important and institutional?
      • Who has time to sort through emails?
    • Archivists believe different things to be important—curation is subjective
  • What gets preserved is inherently a political act
    • Is it anybody’s job to preserve the Internet?
    • Robots.text files
    • How, if at all, can we trust people to appraise and preserve digital records?
  • We’d be horrified about smashing artifacts or burning books, why not deleting digital records?
  • Lower thresholds about what is/isn’t significant

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About Angela Spidalette

I am a junior at the George Washington University studying archaeology and classical studies. I have participated in projects such as the Lodz Ghetto Project through the USHMM and the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Furthermore, I find the digitization of museum collections very interesting.