PDA 2012: Systems, Tools, Platforms

Second afternoon talk: Systems/Tools/Platforms

Putting Personal Archives to Work by Sudheendra Hangal of Stanford University
Personal motivation for creating tools: reading his grandfather’s wonderful diaries which covered 50 years of his life. Thinking about what his grandchildren would read, he thought of emails. Then began creating MUSE in order to browse long-term email archive in a convenient and fun way. The original goal was for personal archival use, even though it is now being used for institutional archives at Stanford.

MUSE runs on user’s own machine, browser-based interface, can get emails from multiple online accounts, and also does data cleaning. Creates cues for users and then users can decide what is interesting and useful for the users. People use MUSE to reminisce about the past, but also to “add color to flashbulb memories,” summarize work progress, identify personal emails in work email accounts, retrieve all attachments, and feel “a renewed sense of confidence.” [Always interesting to see how people find new ways to use tools]

Looking at inline applications for digital archives since many people in the tech world don’t think it’s interesting to look at the past. Working at slanting your search: a search engine per user, populated with domains in their social chatter and search results restricted to these domains. Ran user studies for different search engines. The best results over all were for the email search engine that were personalized for the user from the curated domains. Findings: eliminates spam, good search results. Check out demo of Slanted search here.

Application for consuming textual information to create experience-infused browser. Using your digital archive to customize your browser. Privacy-preserving personalization because all personal data on client (no third party), very rich profile (but unstructured), potentially comprehensive, every site does not have to implement personalization, and no setup needed. People like to discover names of people the know or have discussed, organizations with which they are affiliated, and more. [Hopefully we’ll be able to use this soon]

Personal archives contain detailed experiences and we can mine the archives for the owner’s benefit. Lots of questions and work to still do, but very exciting.

Data Triage and Data Analytics for Personal Digital Collections Kam Woods of UNC Chapel Hill
Working on the BitCurator Project. The project “is an effort to build, test, and analyze systems and software for incorporating digital forensics methods into the workflows of a variety of collecting institutions.”

Why? Because there are many issues in digital preservation and archiving. Issues around the acquisition of personal digital collections in collecting institutions: protecting information, processing collections, and generating metadata–takes time and staff. These issues are long-standing. Need reliable, scalable, and interoperable standards, tools, and techniques.

Building a model for a “forensically enhanced workflow.” Start with a donor device, extract fixed media, acquire raw disk image and forensic packaging, then go to staging area to extract context-senstive identification of private information, acquisition metadata, filesystem metadata, prepare redacted image, permissions overlay, and crosswalks to archival metadata, package for ingest, then to the archives. [Looks complicated]

Looks like it will be useful for collecting institutions once the project is finished and is made user-friendly.

Cowbird by Jonathan Harris
Went from keeping sketchbooks to working on the web and creating websites. You can see his work here. Interesting websites and art that document the world and experiences. You can see Cowbird here. Looking at compression of communication (speeding up), disposability, curating information, and self-promotion. Wants to see revival of deepening, timelessness, creation, and self-reflection in life an online.

Cowbird’s goals are to create place for expression, a new way of journalism, and build a library of life experience. “Deeper form of self-expression.”

Take Home Messages
So many uses for MUSE. Check it out. There are many ways to use personal digital archives to improve searching today, very interesting way to connect archives to daily life. Many ways to communicate and share online. It is what we make of it.