Personal Digital Archiving 2011 Conference: Day One Keynote

At the Personal Digital Archiving 2011 Conference in San Francisco today. It is a bit surreal as we are at the Internet Archive which is housed at an old Christian Science church. I’m sitting on a pew, in the old sanctuary, listening to Brewster Kahle introduce the conference. I’m excited for the conference and hope to get some good information. Now on to the keynote!

Keynote: “people are people and things change”
Cathy Marshall from Microsoft Research (can follow on Twitter: @ccmarshall)

Focusing on what has changed since she has started her research. Talked about her laptop and not backing up her computer. Then talked about Twitter losing her tweets (known issue–happened to me too and it isn’t fun). She doesn’t think of tweets as transient. There are ways of archiving tweets. She hasn’t done that either.

People fail to archive their data. Two-thirds of Americans store personal data in the cloud, 48% of Americans are social networks (Lee Rainie, Pew Internet 2010). “2002 should be considered the beginning of the digital age, first year digitial storage capacity overtook analog; as of 2007 we were 94% digital” (Martin Hilbert USC School of Communication).

Personal archiving has shifted dramatically in the last 6 years. People were experts in certain software programs, but didn’t understand backing up their data. Did a study on lost website recovery study: surprisingly, data loss isn’t due to technology. Now working on social media ownership attitudes.

Benign neglect and side effects. People accumulate stuff: just move over stuff from old computer to new computer. People seem to organize their analog collections much better than their digital collections. People also show ambivalence about the value of their digital files. (I can’t believe this–I would be crushed if I lost my digital files).

Personal digital archiving is not like archiving a personal digital collection. I think we need appraisal and not keep everything! Does digital hoarding really exists? Marshall doesn’t believe that digital hoarding exists; people just accumulate stuff.

People put copies of stuff in different places online and digital safety of data is a side effect. Losing data online is due to many different things: lost account, service/server discontinued, ISP IT policies and practices, hacking, unknown, and only 5% due to hard drive failure. Copies take on a life of their own because people can download them, augment with metadata online, etc.

Ownership of online media is now controversy in many people’s minds. People see it as a slippery slope. People just download photos, videos, etc. without thinking about ownership or copyrights. People don’t read legal agreements on sites about the usage of their data. People see ownership as quite broad and extends it to public material. Removal of material is the controversial action for people. People were uncomfortable about universal access to Twitter archive at the Library of Congress.

Take away message: Everyone feels like it is someone else’s responsibility to archive our data. Digital information only survives if someone takes care of it. So take care of your digital information.