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Day of Digital Archives: McLuhan “The [digital] medium is [no longer] the [only] message.” 2011/10/06

Posted by nydawg in Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation, Education, Information Technology (IT), Media.
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Day of Digital Archives October 6, 2011 Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium Is the Message?” or “The [digital] medium is [no longer] the [only] message.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of “the new spokesman of the electronic age”, Marshall (Understanding Media) McLuhan, and digital archivists should take a moment to think about how media, digital and analog, hot and cool, and in many different formats change our jobs, lives and responsibilities. With threats of technological obsolescence, vendor lock-in, hardware failure, bit rot and link rot, non-backwards compatible software, and format and media obsolescence, digital archivists need a system to accurately describe digital objects and assets in their form and function, content, subject, object and context. If we miss key details, we run the risk of restricting access in the future because, for example, data may not be migrated or media refreshed as needed. By studying and understanding media, digital archivists can propose a realistic and trustworthy digital strategy and implement better and best practices to guarantee more efficiency from capture (and digitization or ingest) and appraisal (selection and description), to preservation (storage) and access (distribution).

Over the last ten, forty, one hundred and twenty thousand years, we have crossed many thresholds and lived through many profound media changes– from oral culture to hieroglyphic communications to the alphabet and the written word, and from scrolls to books, and most recently transiting from the Atomic Age (age of atoms) to the Information Age (era of bits). While all changes were not paradigm shifts, many helped shift currencies of trust and convenience to establish new brand loyalties built on threats of imminent obsolescence and vendor lock-in. As digital archivists, we stand at the line separating data from digital assets, so we need to ensure that we are archiving and preserving the assets and describing the content, technical and contextual metadata as needed.

Today, Day of Digital Archives, is a good day to consider Marshall McLuhan’s most famous aphorism, “The medium is the massage,” and update it for the Information Age. In a nutshell, McLuhan argues that “the medium is the message” because an electric light bulb (medium) is pure information (light). He goes on to state: “This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph.” (Understanding Media, 23-24) But in the Information Age, the [digital] medium is [no longer] the [only] message. Every born-digital or digitized file is a piece in an environment in which it was created or is accessed, and needs to be described on multiple planes to articulate technical specifications (hardware & software versions, operating system, storage media, file format, encryption) as well as its content. For archivists and librarians describing content, the medium and the message, many use MARC, DublinCore and VRA Core are guides, but PBCore provides a richly defined set of technical, content and Intellectual Property metadata fields to ensure all stakeholders, including IT staff will be able to efficiently access, copy or use the asset (or a copy).

With More Product, Less Process [MPLP] the prevailing processing strategy, many libraries, archives and museums encourage simplified descriptions to catalog digital objects, but these generic descriptions (e.g. moving image, video or digital video) do not provide the most critical information to ensure future users can watch the video online, on an iPad or with a DVD player (or VHS player or film projector). Until digital objects and assets are described in their granular, multi-dimensional digital splendor, we are hurting ourselves and archival access in the future. Once we understand that the medium and message are split into many different categories, we can focus descriptive metadata on critical access points (subject, format or function), and we will not need to panic and makework every time a new [moving image] format [or codec] gains temporary popularity. With better description and critical appraisal at ingest, digital archivists will understand that the medium, the message and the content, subject, structure, form, format and other aspects are all integral parts. At that point we will start to change the commonly-held mindset that “The [digital] medium is [no longer] the [only] message.” 


Three Screens and a Cloud: Netflix’s Qwikster, Facebook & Amazon 2011/09/23

Posted by nydawg in Copyright, Curating, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Information Literacy, Information Technology (IT), Intellectual Property, Media.
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One of the most pressing and intimidating challenges digital archivists face today, is the fact that there is so much content offered in so many quick-changing distribution formats and accessible on short-lived storage media.  I found that the easiest way to describe this is “Three screens and a cloud” or as former Microsoft head Ray Ozzie put it: “how we consume IT is really shifting from a machine-centric viewpoint to what we refer to as three screens and a cloud:  the phone, the PC, and the TV ultimately, and how we deliver value to them.” [i would change that to IP, but hey, I’m not CEO of Microsoft.]

So as archivists who are concerned with the distribution and accessibility of our digital assets, it is important to ask early, “What format or what media will be required and who is the targeted end user on what appliance?”  In other words, you probably don’t want to send a hi-def Blu-Ray digital video stream meant for a big screen tv to a tiny smartphone!  Or you probably don’t want to stream a FlashVideo version to an iPad user.

But, on the other hand, archivists may not need to archive or preserve (for long-term functions) every possible variation of each format version (for smartphone or netbook (iPad) or television).   By articulating what is really needed, archivists can streamline processes and avoid making mountains where molehills are sufficient.  Archivists who can see the forest for the trees will be able to describe fewer assets more completely so that specific needles can be found within the haystacks.

This leads me to the real groundshifting news stories that happened this week.  The first one is that NetFlix is splitting its DVDs-by-mail service from its streaming.  According to Huffington Post: “In a post on The Netflix Blog that went up Sunday night, the company’s CEO, Reed Hastings, announced that Netflix would split its DVD-by-mail service and its streaming-video service into two companies. The new DVD-only company, called “Qwikster,” will be completely separate from the streaming business. Hastings also expressed contrition for the way the company rolled out its recent price hike, which alienated many customers. . . . “It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.”

Well, obviously, many people are up in arms and think this is the biggest boneheaded marketing move since Coke introduced New Coke! The NY Times’s David Pogue does a pretty good job of getting his gander up as he parses the Netflix apology without fully acknowledging the economics of the “streaming” game.  I won’t get too much into the legal issues (which I don’t fully understand), but I do remember when I was working in “streaming media” as Senior Encoder at SonicNet (and Streamland), licensing costs and marketing dollars generally shift from one medium (vhs, CD or radio) to another (DVD, streaming media or satellite radio).   It seems inevitable that NetFlix realizes, as Blockbuster did years ago, that physical media will soon be obsolete, . . .  so they’re trying to split themselves in order to have different licensing deals with different stakeholders and end users. . . . . and Blockbuster, long-ago doomed, seeks to get in on the action too!

But ultimately, “An issue that both Netflix and Dish face, even when they don’t want to admit it, is the inconsistency of broadband connectivity across the United States.”

Another huge news story from this week was at f8 where Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced major Facebook renovations. ““Millions of people curate stories of their lives on Facebook every day and have no way to share them once they fall off your profile page…we have been working on ‘timeline’ all year…it’s the story of your life and completely new way to express yourself.  “It has three pieces: all your stories, your apps and a new way to express who you are.”  Zuckerberg said he wanted people to be able to share “their entire lives” on Facebook and have “total control” over how their content appeared online.”

Zuckerberg “also announced a series of partnerships with music, media and games companies –including Spotify, Netflix, Zynga [the maker of Farmville] and The Washington Post.”  So this brings us back to the idea of Netflix which  “announced it is integrating its video streaming service with Facebook — allowing users to watch videos on either site and see what people on their friends lists are viewing.  It will be available in 44 countries except in Netflix’s biggest market — the United States, because of the 1998 Video Privacy Protection Act that prohibits the disclosure of video sales or rental records, the company explained.”

So what does this all mean for “Three Screens and a Cloud?”  Well, it’s important to remember that “Netflix is the biggest driver of U.S. Internet traffic, according to one study. As Internet service providers begin capping or tiering their data plans, that could cause consumers to watch fewer streaming videos on Netflix, analysts say.”  So as phone companies begin capping data plans for distribution (streaming), then another part of the archival equation is the storage medium. . . . and, as many people know, the battle is in the Clouds!

Keep Bit Rot at Bay: Change is Afoot as LoC’s DPOE Trains the Trainers 2011/09/20

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Best Practices, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation, Information Technology (IT), Media.
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This was forwarded to me by a nydawg member who subscribes to the UK’s Digital Preservation listserv.  I don’t know if  it’s been posted publicly in the US, but I guess this first one is by invitation-only.  I would LOVE to hear what they are teaching and how they are doing it, so I hope someday to attend as well.

Library of Congress To Launch New Corps of Digital Preservation Trainers

The Digital Preservation Outreach and Education program at the Library of Congress will hold its first national train-the-trainer workshop on September 20-23, 2011, in Washington, DC.

The DPOE Baseline Workshop will produce a corps of trainers who are equipped to teach others, in their home regions across the U.S., the basic principles and practices of preserving digital materials.  Examples of such materials include websites; emails; digital photos, music, and videos; and official records.

The 24 students in the workshop (first in a projected series) are professionals from a variety of backgrounds who were selected from a nationwide applicant pool to  represent their home regions, and who have at least some familiarity with community-based training and with digital preservation. They will be instructed by the following subject matter experts:

*   Nancy McGovern, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social  Research, University of Michigan
*   Robin Dale, LYRASIS
*   Mary Molinaro, University of Kentucky Libraries
*   Katherine Skinner, Educopia Institute and MetaArchive Cooperative
*   Michael Thuman,  Tessella
*   Helen Tibbo, School of Information and Library Science, University of  North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Society of American Archivists.

The curriculum has been developed by the DPOE staff and expert volunteer advisors and informed by DPOE-conducted research–including a nationwide needs-assessment survey and a review of curricula in existing training programs. An outcome of the September workshop will be for each participant to, in turn, hold at least one basic-level digital-preservation workshop in his or her home U.S. region by mid-2012.

The intent of the workshop is to share high-quality training in digital preservation, based upon a standardized set of core
principles, across the nation.  In time, the goal is to make the training available and affordable to virtually any interested
organization or individual.

The Library’s September 2011 workshop is invitation-only, but informational and media inquiries are welcome to George Coulbourne, DPOE Program Director, at gcou@loc.gov.

The Library created DPOE  in 2010.  Its mission is to foster national outreach and education to encourage individuals and organizations to actively preserve their digital content, building on a collaborative network of instructors, contributors and institutional partners. The DPOE website is www.loc.gov/dpoe
http://digitalpreservation.gov/education/.  Check out the curriculum and course offerings here.



Curating Google Doodle Highlights incl. Freddie Mercury’s Tribute 2011/09/06

Posted by nydawg in Curating, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation, Information Technology (IT), Intellectual Property, Media.
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Hi everyone: Maybe this isn’t totally an archival or curatorial issue, but in some ways, these GoogleDoodles do what a good archive strives to do: provide easy access to available information and resources.  So pump up the volume, click on today’s GoogleDoodle, look for the cc [closed-captioning] button for lyrics to sing-along as you watch an animated music video tribute to the late great Queen singer Freddie Mercury.  http://www.google.com/

and check out Queen guitarist Brian May’s blog tribute here.

But if you want more of those awesome GoogleDoodles, don’t forget some of my favorites including: Alex Calder’s moving mobiles;  playable and recordable Les Paul guitar; John Lennon’s hand-drawn Imagine (animation); Martha’ Graham’s “Thought of You” dance; Mr. Men and Little Miss; Charlie Chaplin’s 122nd Birthday; and who can forget GoogleDoodle Dots, Jules Verne or the Google PacMan?

Those are some of my favorites, but I can probably think of a dozen more if i put my head to it. . . .If you’re interested in learning about the doodle history, check it out here.  And if i’m missing any good ones, please let me know!

Digital New York: Still a Few Bugs in the System 2011/09/05

Posted by nydawg in Curating, Digital Archiving, Education, Electronic Records, Information Technology (IT), Media.
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Hurricane Irene (not to scale)

Many of you know that I missed all the excitement last week as Hurricane Irene bore down on the New York area.  I was in Chicago for the 75th Annual Meeting of the SAA (Society of American Archivists) and it got so bad that I received warning emails from my mother and my oldest brother.  [I assume they had received but not read my itinerary which clearly showed that I was heading to Minneapolis/St Paul after the meeting.]  So I figured I was in the clear until I realized sometime on Friday, “Whoops! I forgot to close my windows!”  So I guess I can say I was tangentially affected (by guilt caused) by Tropical Storm Irene. . . .

But as the story was developing, I was in touch with friends back East and learned that some who live in my neighborhood were advised to evacuate!  My ex-girlfriend evacuated our two (Brooklyn) cats to Manhattan, and sent me pictures!  Well, I live close enough to the East River to start to worry about my (second floor) apartment. .  With a little research, I learned that I could find the evacuation areas from nyc.gov.  But on Saturday, I didn’t have any luck accessing the PDF or whatever it was.

So this morning, I stopped for a cup of coffee in Champion, and happened to read an article that “The New York Times reported that the city’s official website, www.nyc.gov, was down on the morning of Friday, Aug. 26.  The news outlet suggested that the site was overwhelmed by people looking for information about the hurricane. As of 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, however, the site was back online.   The timing couldn’t have been worse. In what New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called a “first time” for the city, he ordered a mandatory evacuation of various coastal areas of the city’s five boroughs, covering roughly 250,000 people.”  So this is dysfunctional modern-day disaster planning.

From the TimesCity Learns Lessons From the Storm, Many of Them the Hard Way” we learn that “For example, the mayor’s office had predicted a surge in Web traffic on nyc.gov when it issued the evacuation order. But nobody expected five times the normal volume of traffic. By Friday afternoon, computer servers had become severely overloaded. The Web site sputtered and crashed for hours, when New Yorkers needed it most.  In the future, the city will try to modify the Web site so that it can be quickly stripped down to a few essential features  —  like an evacuation map, searchable by ZIP code —  that are in highest demand during an emergency.”

Hurricane Irene: NYC Evacuation Zones

I’m curious about what is the “normal volume” of traffic on that webpage?  But it seems to me that this is ultimately a problem wit making information accessible, but not thinking it through to the extent that an end-user (who may have to evacuate his/her house!) has to first click on the PDF, then download it, wait for it to finish downloading, launch it, and then search for the data needed. . . . .  The fact that this is not an integrated system where a person can easily plug his/her zip code into an online system to find out if his house is in an evacuation zone  suggests that the system is not very functional, best practices are not in use, and further, that perhaps the metrics used to show how vital Digital New York is, are the wrong metrics to use.

Why wouldn’t the IT staff at DoITTT consider creating mirror sites for downloading the PDFs?  So the first victim of Hurricane Irene was NYC.gov.  “In a tweet earlier this morning the city’s Chief Digital Officer apologized for the outage while giving specific links (which were also frequently down) to find the city’shurricane evacuation map (we’ve included it below for your convenience). And the city’s main Twitter feed just put out a similar tweet. Which means, damn, a LOT of people must be trying to access the city’s website. We’ve e-mailed to find out just how many users it takes to take down nyc.gov but have yet to hear back.”

Well, fortunately, they’ve probably learned some lessons from this hysteria, and it seems like no one suffered much damage in this area and, ironically (or fortunately) September is a good time to Get Prepared: “National Preparedness Month . .  . a nationwide campaign to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism.”  To learn more about NYC’s Digital Strategy and the Chief Digital Officer check here for the Road Map. (more…)

Rothenberg: Ensuring Digital Longevity 2011/08/13

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation, Electronic Records.
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Rothenberg “Ensuring Longevity Digital information”

This is a seminal essay from 1999, which merits occasional
and regular re-readings. . . .  

“The year is 2045, and my grandchildren (as yet unborn) are
exploring the attic of my house (as
yet unbought). They find
a letter dated 1995 and a CD-ROM (compact disk). The letter claims
that the disk contains a document that provides the key to
obtaining my fortune (as yet unearned).
My grandchildren are
understandably excited, but they have never seen a CD before—
except in old movies—and even if they can somehow find a suitable
disk drive, how will they run the
software necessary to interpret
the information on the disk? How can they read my obsolete digital

This scenario questions the future of our computer-based
digital documents, which are rapidly replacing their
paper counterparts. It is widely accepted that
information technology is revolutionizing our concepts
of documents and records in an upheaval at least as
great as the introduction of printing, if not of writing
itself. The current generation of digital records
therefore has unique historical significance; yet our
digital documents are far more fragile than paper. In
fact, the record of the entire present period of history
is in jeopardy. The content and historical value of
many governmental, organizational, legal, financial,
and technical records, scientific databases, and personal
documents may be irretrievably lost to future generations
if we do not take steps to preserve them.

“I’m an Archivist [for Jon Stewart]” read-along music video 2011/08/13

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Digital Preservation.
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WoodyGuth3 "I'm an Archivist"

A few months ago, Jon Stewart was mocking the idea that a job posted for a Grateful Dead Archivist would actually require a Master’s degree. . .  So as a Digital Archivist, I thought I would try to bridge the gap, and put into words and song a few details of what it’s like to be a professional Digital Archivist in the Information Age. . . .  After writing the lyrics and recording a draft, I sent it off to my friends in Minneapolis from the WoodyGuth3, Tommy Hollywood Yesterday and Judge Joko Jono (Lollycopter), and they recorded this excellent read-along version.  .  Hope you like it too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7j2QPttEuU

SAA Announces Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Certificate Curriculum 2011/08/13

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Digital Archives, Digital Archiving, Education.
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This is really exciting to me! Last year, I volunteered my services and time and Society of American Archivists [SAA] President Dr. Helen Tibbo appointed me to act as a member of the 5-person Digital Archives Continuing Education Task Force.  We had a few conference calls and met in Chicago for most of a weekend last October, and I’m thrilled to see that our DAS certificate program proposal and revisions have been accepted by the Education Committee and will be offered beginning in September 2011!

I should give a big thanks and congratulations to all the hard-working members of the DACE Task Force including Chairman Geof Huth (Director of Government Records, New York State Archives),  SAA President Dr. Helen Tibbo (Distinguished Professor at University of North Carolina), Jackie Esposito (University Archivist, Penn State University), Mahnaz Ghaznavi (Archivist, Loyola Marymount University), Solveig DeSutter (SAA Director of Education), and yours truly, David Kay, MLS (Director of Archives & Digital Archivist, Little Airplane Productions).

“SAA is committed to providing education and training to ensure that archivists adopt appropriate practices for appraising, capturing, preserving, and providing access to electronic records. That’s why we’ve developed the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate Program, designed to provide you with the information and tools you need to manage the demands of born-digital records.  The DAS Curriculum, developed by experts in the field of digital archives, is structured in tiers of study that guide you to choose courses based on your specific knowledge, training, and needs. You can choose individual courses—or you can take your learning to the next level by earning a Digital Archives Specialist Certificate from SAA after completing required coursework and passing both course and comprehensive examinations.

Read all the details and check out course offerings here: