Introduction to digital curation weeks 6-8

For the record…

Week 6 was on “the digital curation worldview”, looking at two theoretical models that are starting to become “if not the ‘orthodox’ view at least the reference from which all deviations are measured”:

  • the OAIS Model (Open Archival Information Systems Reference Model ISO 14721:2003, recently revised as ISO 14721:2012 – developed by individuals interested in space data and information transfer systems
  • the DCC Lifecycle Model and glossary – developed more from within the archive community

The digital curation profession is made up of those whose primary role and job it is to ensure the ongoing accessibility of digital material in all its different forms, from data used in research, to records of businesses and individuals, to ebooks and ejournals, to software and computer games. It is still very much in a process of formation from and within many more established workgroups, including librarians, archivists, museum curators, researchers, computer scientists and IT professionals.

So not my worldview…

Week 7 looked at the digital curation community and its spaces, ” sites of community activity, shared resources and the active participation of individuals as they strive to keep up to date with developments and learn from each other”. This need not trouble us further.

Week 8 looked at the competencies and skills deemed necessary for those working in digital curation, referencing two frameworks:

There’s a Twitter chat on 30 June, with five questions:

  • What is digital curation? (definitions should be no more than one tweet long)
  • Has (and, if so, how has) your sense of what digital curation is changed as a result of this course?
  • How do you think ‘the general public’ view digital curation?
  • How can digital curation be made more mainstream?
  • What (if anything) will you be doing to interest and inform others in and about digital curation?

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…

Introduction to digital curation: weeks 1 and 2

Another day, another MOOC. Introduction to digital curation is being run by UCL on their own platform, UCLeXtend. It runs for eight weeks from 5 May to 30 June, with a workload of three hours per week. Twitter: #uclxidc, but not really happening (65 in last 30 days), and a Twitter list (156 mems). Chats scheduled for 5 and 30 June, 8pm BST. Not many I ‘know’, but could be fun to analyse those bios : P

Digital curation can be defined as the ongoing management for use of digital material, but it can also be defined as an emerging trans-disciplinary field with no firm boundaries or established best practice. This course is designed to help you start to get to grips with digital curation in both these aspects.

Having completed it, you should be able to:

  • describe how a concern for digital curation has emerged over the recent past
  • explain the main models, ideas and strategies currently used to give shape to digital curation
  • use the vocabulary of digital curation
  • identify the competencies and skills currently deemed necessary for those working in digital curation
  • draw on a number of online resources in order to keep your knowledge up to date
  • participate in the wider digital curation community and the development of practice in this area

The first hurdle was creating a valid password. This requires upper and lower case, punctuation and a number…no chance of remembering it then. After several attempts at creating a password I’ve ended up sticking with one of the autogenerated ones saved in my mailbox, as you are logged out regularly and the system doesn’t remember your credentials. No doubt very secure. But not exactly user friendly.

OK now I’m in, what’s occurring? At first glance it appears it’s just a forum, but the pale blue bar is actually a link (the darker one isn’t):


Week 1: welcome

Consists of a course handbook (way too wordy) and timetable, meet the team (archivist Jenny Bunn of Info Studs at UCL) and an introduce yourself thread. I’m not a big fan of intro threads. This one has 3 pages and, it seems, around 218 participants. Searchable, divvied up at all? Nope. No read counts. The only post with replies is the one for the Twitter list…pass. Why would I click on a post with “hello” and a name? Now I’m wondering how to get to that forum page…there’s a sharing link at the foot of the menu, but still, some attention to IA needed, folks.

Graham Attwell (@GrahamAttwell) from Pontydysgu is enrolled, and I found an interesting blogger, Ed Bremner (@ed_bremner), who’s doing ocTEL as well. And that was week 1!

Week 2: a wider context

Digital curation is a relatively new area of interest, but then so is the development of the technologies that allow us to create, store, share and use things digitally. Indeed the emergence of a concern with digital curation cannot be understood without reference to the wider context of the development of such technologies.

In this section we will:

  • start to work out what digital curation is by investigating where it has come from
  • examine how digital curation has emerged in the context of the wider digital environment
  • apply our reflections on that wider digital environment to
  • identify the ways in which the digital environment has impacted on our own activities and concern or interest with digital curation

My MOOCs are a good way of tidying up old posts, drafts, etc. In this case I’ve so much stuff I can’t see it happening, so my goals instead are to look at curation afresh, in terms of how I can tie it in with my writing, who is a ‘curator’ (“everyone is a publisher”; can the crowd curate?) and can you curate for yourself, etc, rather than to revisit info studs, but we shall see.

Three resources on offer, including two timelines with lots of related library library reading, one on the wider digital preservation context. WLTC curation being defined within the digital context rather than the stress on the digitalisation per se.

What is digital curation? offers some definitions, ranging from the Digital Curation Centre’s “maintaining, preserving and adding value to digital research data throughout its lifecycle” to Rahim Hijri’s “the sourcing of media and information for relevance audience” and Naomi Bates: “more than just collecting”. Go Naomi!

The activity is to post up to 500 words on this historical context, culminating in where your concern with or interest in digital curation stems from. As we can see above this one has attracted around 67 posts. I may try this out as part of my writing exercises this pm, but for now that was week 2.

Update: looking at all my stuff on (and in need of) curation it would be a bottomless pit to go near it. Already surfaced two early links:

In January a former colleague, engaged in the#BYOD4L MOOC, posed these questions re curation:

  1. What does curating mean to you? More than archiving or cataloguing; an organised body of content (a database) is data if you will; definitely more than an aggregation aka list of links; the act of finding and selecting material is not curation, however can be a helpful learning tool
  2. What mobile device(s)/tool(s) and apps do you use for curating? With Storify, the clue is in the name – it can help piece together the narrative of an event, for example, but watch endless streams. See Curation is the new search above – text analysis could be a way forward.
  3. Why do you curate: motivations and purpose? Sensemaking, primarily, a form of research. Re events, as a form of archive. For me there’s a tension between curating and creating – so I’m looking to find ways to exploit it as a form of writing.
  4. How do get others to engage with your curated content? As a personal activity it’s often a means to an end – how often do you go back to your hoard? As a professional and ‘social’ activity, it’s formidling – aimed at an audience, whether real or imagined. Coming back to the point of a narrative – simply helping people find things is not the role of a curator.

See the organiser’s round-up of responses, and also Alistair Creelman: “We’re not creating anything new, simply creating echoes of someone else’s content…everyone is busy curating, compiling, tweeting, retweeting, sharing and tagging but is anyone listening or is all this a gigantic digital echo-chamber?” Reduce background noise!

Oliver Burkeman (my bolding):

The chief oddity about our enthusiasm for storing memories is that it seems so disproportionate to the time spent revisiting them…collecting memories is less about the memories than the collecting…there is no need to act like a curator and keep every object from your past in a box as proof of your existence.

Enough already…