[Humanist] 25.217 digital preservation?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Aug 7 22:51:06 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 217.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 08 Aug 2011 06:31:21 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: digital preservation

> We have to stop thinking about how to save data only after it’s no 
> longer needed, as when an author donates her papers to an archive. 
> Instead, we must look for ways to continuously maintain and improve it. 
> In other words, we must stop preserving digital material and start 
> curating it." Kari Kraus, "When data disappears", New York Times, 
> 6 August 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/opinion/sunday/
> when-data-disappears.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

Really? I recall a point made by John von Neumann, that in thinking about
digital automata we should consider how human beings do the job, at least
insofar as the basic physical constraints of size and capacity. How do we
cope with the experiences of a lifetime -- all of what is perceived, thought,
remembered? (For a wonderful reflection on this, see Steven Rose, "Memories
are made of this", in A. S. Byatt and Harriet Harvey Wood, Memory: An
Anthology (London: Vintage, 2009).) What are we thinking of when we talk
about preservation or curation? Some big tank without limit? Library shelves
that go on forever, with a perfectly efficient book-fetcher, or sometimes
serendipitous, sometimes impish, sometimes truculent and unccooperative
assistant? Let's drag whatever metaphors are inside these discussions
out into the open and consider them. Let's ask, what are we likening our
preservation/curation project to? Do the analogies hold? What in the end
(which never comes) are we left with but ourselves?

Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
College London; Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western
Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org);
Editor, Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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