Digital Curation

The last piece of the e-publishing puzzle came into focus today– or at least the last piece of this course. Because readers don’t just read text online– they “read” art, data and multimedia too.

Joyce Ray gave us an overview of digital curation today, and how difficult to preserve digital artifacts so that they can be found and interpreted.

The main elements:

  • TRAC checklist
  • data lifecycle
  • digital identifiers
  • metadata– including intentions of artist or creator
  • data management plan- now compulsory for funding

Aside from great metadata and digital identifiers, archivists also need to think about server space and costs. I guess physical libraries and archives also have to worry about losing funding or losing space, but for a digital archive, all it takes is one power failure, one flick of the switch to lose an entire collection.

We talked a lot about how to archive data– but how to make it readable? Infographics and manipulative data sets (like the ones put out by Sage) seem like the most viable options right now. It’s funny– the book has been the chosen vehicle of text for a thousand years (give or take) but the jury is still out on the best medium to deliver data.

Very simplistic infographic. Image credit George Takei,

What will become the easiest and most compelling way for people to “read” and actually understand raw data sets, born digital documents, and similar non-narrative texts?

And how will we access them. We talked about digital repositories and then digital access subscriptions. Once the idea of an all-inclusive subscription model was put on the table I started to think about cable, and the power that cable and internet providers have. I think that digital archives and repositories could end up with a greater status as gatekeepers than we currently realize. Library cards are free, but download speeds aren’t.

Publishers like Oxford are already acting as gatekeepers to some extent, by working with libraries to make sure that their databases are in front of every British citizen.

Is this just a continuation of the model always used by libraries and publishers, or is this new territory?

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