Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Nothing succeeds like success: An approach for evaluating digital preservation efficacy

Nothing succeeds like success: An approach for evaluating digital preservation efficacy. Stephen Abrams. Paper, iPres 2018. [PDF]
     Digital preservation encompasses the theory and practice ensuring purposeful future use of digital resources. But how can one tell whether it has been effective or not? The evaluation of the effectiveness of preservation actions has two dimensions: trustworthiness of managerial programs and systems; and successful use of managed resources.
  • Preservation should be viewed as facilitating meaningful communication across time and cultural distance.
  • The preservation field has not yet matured to a point of having established metrics for evaluating the success or failure of its outcomes
  • We should be asking what measures can be used to evaluate the success of the digital preservation efforts
  • A proper model for digital preservation should be viewed as human communication rather than data management and evaluating success through operational, not just descriptive evidence. 
  • The goal of that communication is to transfer an intangible but intentional unit of meaning from the producer to a consumer across temporal, technical, and cultural distance
  • Like any formal discipline, digital preservation should be viewed as a complex of actors, policies, technologies, and practices; its maturity is dependent on its capacity for reflective self-evaluation
  • There are two primary measures of preservation efficacy: trustworthiness of managerial systems and programs; and successful use of preserved resources.
  • Because of the open-ended time horizon of preservation commitments, preservation success should be understood as a provisional, rather than absolute value. One can’t make categorical assertions beyond the ever-forward-moving point of now, since the consequences of the future cannot be fully anticipated
  • A model of the digital preservation enterprise provides a way to analyze, explicate, and understand the domain. It can lead to new criteria and metrics for evaluating success. It also will form the basis for rational prioritization of strategic goals, allocation of programmatic resources, and transparent accountability to stakeholder communities.

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