Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When Data Disappears.

When Data Disappears. Kari Kraus. The New York Times. August 6, 2011.
A writer said he didn't include digital media in his archive because he felt digital preservation is doomed to fail. “There are forms of media which are just inherently unstable.” It is more difficult, but it is not pointless.  "If we’re going to save even a fraction of the trillions of bits of data churned out every year, we can’t think of digital preservation in the same way we do paper preservation. We have to stop thinking about how to save data only after it’s no longer needed, as when an author donates her papers to an archive. Instead, we must look for ways to continuously maintain and improve it. In other words, we must stop preserving digital material and start curating it."

There are major challenges with digital preservation, but part of it is the amount of data being created.  The world created over 1.8 zettabytes of digital information a year. There will never be enough capacity to save everything if we continue to replicate the practices used to maintain paper archives. In the paper archives model, preservation begins at the end of the life cycle. Data preservation must happen earlier, ideally when the item is created. The decisions about what to save and how to save it must be made early in the life cycle; the data should then be curated, not preserved.  Not all data is worth preserving, either in paper or electronically.  Video games offer an interesting model that may be useful with other types of information.  That model "allows us to see preservation as active and continuing: managing change to data rather than trying to prevent it, while viewing data as a living resource for the future rather than a relic of the past"

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