tiistai 6. maaliskuuta 2012

About born digital objects & digital preservation

Hello again! Because of the nasty fever I suffered earlier, I could not grace the Digital culture course with my presence two weeks ago, so here's on update I'll have to write about the topic for the lecture I missed out on. The topic of the lecture on February 20th was born digital objects (sounds quite curious, doesn't it?) and digital preservation in general.

Born digital objects are according to Wikipedia:" materials that originate in a digital form.It is most often used in relation to digital libraries and the issues that go along with said organizations, such as digital preservation and intellectual property. However, as technologies have advanced and spread, the concept of being born-digital has also been discussed in relation to personal consumer-based sectors, with the rise of e-books and evolving digital music. Other terms that might be encountered as synonymous include “natively digital,” “digital-first,” and “digital-exclusive." A lot of text, huh?

Well, basically it seems that born digital objects or born-digital, as they are also called, consist of growing group of materials, range from websites, forums, communities, wikis. In short anything that was or has been created in a digital environment can be considered born digital material. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia:"There exists some inconsistency in defining born-digital materials. Some believe such materials must exist in digital form exclusively; in other words, if it can be transferred into a physical, analog form, it is not truly born-digital. However, others maintain that while these materials will often not have a subsequent physical counterpart, having one does not bar them from being classified as 'born-digital'."

Although most of the digital material online, like those counted above, can easily be digitised, some of the material online do not meet the same lucky fate. Material such as online newspapers, photographs, Internet disseminated TV shows and webcomics all have their origins in a time prior to the use of computers, but due to popularity have the material has been converted to a digital format, resulting in separate born-digital creations. This allows each of these materials to reach a bigger audience of interest and gain interest. The accessibility and easily usable format has made them a popular part of everyday life. E-books are a good sample of well-integrated digitisation, which have also awakened people's interest towards born digital materials and digital preservation. This is especially important to remember as a researcher, when we can all count on finding valuable research sources online in the future rather than in a physical form.

Digital preservation (again, thank you Wikipedia, you are quite impeccable at times!) is the set of processes, activities and management of digital information over time to ensure its long term accessibility. The goal of digital preservation is to preserve materials resulting from digital reformatting, and particularly information that is born-digital with no analog counterpart. Because of the relatively short lifecycle of digital information, preservation is an ongoing process. As we can see, digital preservation is essentially what makes born digital material accessible to us. Preserving Internet and its vast expanse of material is a real challenge for scientists and researchers alike, especially when the desired outcome is long-term storage for decades ahead. Long-term is defined as "long enough to be concerned with the impacts of changing technologies, including support for new media and data formats, or with a changing user community. Long Term may extend indefinitely". It is important that the storage is error-free and allows retrieving of acquired data without risk of corrupting the digital storage and the files it contains. Most of this digital material is encoded and needs to be interpreted into usable presentations such as pictures, text,charts, images or sounds. It is also important to plan the actual process of preservation, so that the material will be as undamaged as possible by the digitisation itself and when transferred to the storage. After all, much of future research will be relying on such digitally preserved material and its unaltered condition.

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