Strategies, Tools & Services: PDA 2011

Next up, three talks on personal digital archiving strategies for individuals.

The Lost Curator: Personal Digital Archives and the Death Transition
Evan Carroll (The Digital Beyond)
The Digital Beyond is a website that helps people understand what happens to digital data after they die.

Identity Preservation
Objects are passed to heirs as an act of identity preservation–and often give with family stories. Objects are imbued with meaning via the stories. Now we have a shift to digital objects in the cloud.

Issues with passing on digital content: awareness, access, ownership, preservation, and many more. But we aren’t talking about this today.

Talking about Meaning
How can we design personal archives so that a lifetime of digital content can be accessible and meaningful for future generations?

We have lots of stories that go with digital photos, but we don’t connect the two. And this is a problem and we could potentially lose the contextual meanings.

Need to also think about value and how it changes with time and with who is using the object. “Value is extracted from more than just the content. Sometimes you need the story behind the object to appreciate it.”

How do we transition from creator to new curators? It can be a burden to the survivors because there are so many digital files and not a lot of organization. Need to honor and respect the wishes of the deceased–did they really want you to see their files?

Design Principles
Take a user-centric perspective at the transition between creator and next curator:

  • Ensure awareness and access: not easy to find digital objects, need to have archiving systems that provide easy access.
  • Wishes: need to ensure the wishes of deceased are respected and prevent loss of meanings.
  • Communicate value: need to tell why objects are important, need to get metadata, especially in ways that are passively captured (yay for easy-to-use, behind-the-scenes capture of metadata)
  • Tackle Quantity: “One important object is often as valuable as 10,000 objects.” How do we deal with overwhelming quantity of digital objects? Need ways of appraising massive amounts of data
  • Communal Experience: digital objects move us away from experiencing them together in person. We need ways to capture comments and conversation. Stories are inherently social.

Curating Digital Intellectual Lives: A Discipline-based Approach
Ellysa Stern Cahoy and Scott McDonald (Penn State Library)

Discussing workflow for managing faculty’s digital information/personal information collections. Need to help faculty organize and effectively mine personal information collections. Physical library needs to start thinking about the users’ libraries on their own computers. (Very interesting thought–need to bring this idea back to my library)

Workflow of information for faculty:
Find, store, organize, annotate, cite, archive, reflect: all linked by sharing. Need to think about this workflow is actually a workflow (a continuum). A big problem is that everyone is using different programs and they don’t talk to each other. Faculty are using many different tools for research. Faculty are becoming their own librarian/archivist because less mediation between the faculty and the information.

We need to help faculty with their own digital curation because they are often overwhelmed with the quantity of their research information. (Aren’t we all a bit overwhelmed?)

Krause Innovation Studio at Penn State has been created to help faculty members with curating their digital information and create a useful workflow. Penn State Libraries are working on creating educational program for faculty. The libraries envision themselves working with faculty via data management services, personal library management tools, and storage for scholarly works.

Agile Archiving
Judith Zissman (Independent)

Talking about how individuals can use ideas from agile software product design to personal archiving. What does “good enough” archiving look like? Looking at the Agile Manifesto: individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaborations, and responding to change are what are valued the most.

Need to give tools that will work today for individuals to use. Think about “just in time” versus “just in case” value in tools. Value simplicity. Treasure the things that are valuable and getting rid of non-valuable digital objects make it easier to see the value in the things that are kept (also, it increases the signal to noise ratio in your digital archive which is always a good thing). Need personalized solutions.

Take away: Lots of questions, not a lot of answers, but we are in this problem of digital personal archiving together.