Introduction to Digital Curation: weeks 3-5

Why title case? Read on to find out…

Logging back in reveals that it is possible to persuade Chrome to remember the nonsense password, hurra! The login screen shows three new messages since last login, but doesn’t exactly lead you to the content. Idiosyncratic at best. The topic for weeks 3-5 is digital curation begins at home. Twitter chat on 5 June. Having just exposed personal curation as a fraud, this should be fun. In her introductory email Jenny states that “there is something very interesting going on with the emergence of what some might term personal digital archiving and others might term community archives“, and which I might term crowdsourcing or co-creation:

How is the way we do curation different in the personal sphere from the institutional sphere and what (if anything) can we learn from that?

Me in discussion forum:

Re digital curation on the professional/insitutional level I’ve found it a useful approach to capture information from academic events, where a record is seldom kept of proceedings. On the personal level I find it a useful sensemaking tool. Any professional curators here? Lines between archiving and curating seem to be a bit blurry up to now, with the stress on the digital rather than the curation part of the topic. Isn’t the role of a curator to impose a narrative? For me we need to distinguish between archiving and curating. Wikipedia: Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (eg gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The problem I have with ‘personal curation’ is that there is no audience.

A couple of people responded from type 1 (see below), and browsing the forums reveals discussions around technical vs interpretation.

A typology from the what is digital curation thread, with proposed new terminology:

  1. Digital data management – digital curation as understood by the e-science and data communities – narrowly defined, highly skilled and technical practices such as those of the Digital Curation Centre. This seems to be the earliest definition (2003).
  2. Digital stewardship – the utilisation of traditional practices and skills of museums, archives and art galleries as applied to digitised materials. This would involve the acquisition, selection and careful digitisation of physical texts/materials/objects – for the primary purpose of preservation – and then the contextualised exhibition of these items within a insitutional ‘space’ (whether this be physically within a museum (etc) via a digital screen, or via a website that has been ‘curated’ by a professional within the sector).
  3. Digital preservation – the ‘work undertaken to hold digital culture in trust for future generations’. This would involve the management of obselete (or soon to be obsolete) digital data (web pages, files, etc) in such a way that it would be usable by future generations using more advanced technologies. Examples of this would be the work undertaken by the Internet Archive.
  4. Digital (social) cataloguing – content curation- the, (relatively) non-technical, digital equivalents of the wider cultural trend for content ‘curation’. This would mean the (knowledgable) selection/cataloguing of digital content into (more of less) logical categories. Examples of this would be activities such as creating ‘intelligent’ YouTube or Spotify playlists focused on specific themes, or the cataloguing of diffuse links to digital content under particular topic headings.

If the primary intention of the course was to cover 1, getting involved in personal curation was bound to muddy the waters rather.

Let’s see what Jenny has for us (my bolding)!

One strong message that has led to and from the emergence of digital curation is that data stored digitally is both fragile and challenging when it comes to the question of its ongoing accessibility. In recent years, a concern has emerged, particularly among elements of the library and archive community such as the US Library of Congress, with ‘personal digital archiving‘ or ‘personal archiving‘. This concern reflects a desire to support individuals in managing their own digital material through the provision of information and advice.

In this section we will:

  • start to gain an understanding of what it means to undertake digital curation by considering it in a personal context
  • explore our own use of different storage media and file formats and the implications that has for the ongoing accessibility of our data
  • undertake some experiments with checksums and with exporting or format shifting our own material
  • reflect on our own practice in managing our personal digital material

Three resources, one for each week:

  • 19-25 May: the challenge of obsolescence – an introduction to storage media and file formats; “increasingly though, many of us are choosing to outsource our storage to the cloud, with the result that the storage media and the way in which it is stored becomes practically invisible” – well quite…skipping this; see Oliver Burkeman again
  • 26 May – 1 June: some strategies for digital curation – an introduction to format conversion and checksums…pass
  • 2-9 June: managing your own digital material – personal digital archiving and trusted digital repositories; “there has been some debate about the difference between digital curation and digital preservation”…see Sarah Higgins‘ article on Digital curation: the emergence of a new discipline. On the forum (personal) knowledge management almost got a look-in too.

Preservation implied a passive state, where material would be mothballed in an inaccessible “dark archive” […] Over the last few years, the focus has shifted to ensuring that digital material is managed throughout its lifecycle so that it remains accessible to those who need to use it. […] Digital material is actively preserved, used and reused for new purposes, creating new materials. This is Digital Curation.

Adding value, creating new materials as a form of interpretation – is this (digital) curation? This is going nowhere fast, but I will check in again for week 6.

Forum challenge: write a post/s outlining:

  • the results of a survey of your own digital material. What is its extent? In what formats and on what storage media is it held?
  • the results of any experiments. Have you tried to change the format of any of your material? Did you have a play with checksums?
  • your assessment of your management of your own digital material. Do you think you manage it well and, if so, why? Do you think you should manage it differently? What are the main problems you face when trying to manage your material? Have you used any specific software or services in this context and what do they do for you?

There’s also a Twitter chat on 5 June around the following questions:

  1. How good are you at looking after your own digital material?
  2. What would help you (and others) to look after their digital material better?
  3. Whose job should it be to help individuals look after their own digital material?
  4. Why do we need to look after our digital material anyway?
  5. Does digital curation begin at home?

Will it be curated? Update: no. It was quiet…


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