This course acquaints students with the challenges of, and best practices for, preserving digital artifacts. Topics can include a survey of the (sometimes bewildering) array of formats for digital media, along with their vulnerabilities and half-lives; analysis of various preservation strategies (storage, migration, emulation, reinterpretation); institutional, legal, and practical impediments to preservation; preservation standards and resources for digital media (Media Matters, Variable Media Questionnaire). 3 credits.
Upon completing the course, students will have:
* Understood the enormous challenges digital culture represents for preservation.
* Learned the range of technical, institutional, and legal failure points for preserving digital artifacts.
* Understood and practiced preservation strategies such as storage, emulation, migration, and reinterpretation.
* Learned how to document variable works in museums and libraries.
* Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014).
* Other readings will be provided through e-reserve or other online means.
The course website will be where the majority of the class takes place, including videos, lessons, and interaction with the instructor and other students. Before the class begins you will receive a message from the instructor(s) including login credentials and other information on how to access and use the site.
The course will consist of a series of video lectures, readings, and associated assignments broken up into week-long topics. Within each week you will be expected to:
* Watch all of the lectures and tutorials listed in the week's introduction and read any assigned material.
* Submit the weekly assignment on the course web site (or as a link to another site or resource, as appropriate).
* Participate in the ongoing discussions on the course web site. It cannot be emphasized enough how important this is to successfully taking an online-only course. A significant part of what you get from the class will come in talking and listening to other students and the instructors as they discuss their own take on the material.
This course is designed to be completely asynchronous so there are no specific times for meeting with other students or the instructor. Instead, interaction will take place via email and the course's message board, where you will also be submitting assignments and giving feedback to other students.
Attendance in an asynchronous online course is a somewhat nebulous concept. While it is expected that you will accomplish all of the tasks by their assigned deadlines, participation in the class' online discussion is also critical to your success in the class and the frequency and depth of your interactions with other students and the instructor will be considered part of your "attendance" and thus part of your grade. If you for any reason think you may have an issue, either on a specific day/week or overall, talk to us! It is much easier to make accommodations ahead of time than after the fact.
Academic honesty is very important. It is dishonest to cheat on exams, to copy term papers, to submit papers written by another person, to fake experimental results, or to copy or reword parts of books or articles into your own papers without appropriately citing the source. Students committing or aiding in any of these violations may be given failing grades for an assignment or for an entire course, at the discretion of the instructor. In addition to any academic action taken by an instructor, these violations are also subject to action under the University of Maine Student Conduct Code. The maximum possible sanction under the student conduct code is dismissal from the University.
If you have a disability for which you may be requesting an accommodation, please contact Disabilities Services, 121 East Annex, 581-2319, as early as possible in the term.
In the event of an extended disruption of normal classroom activities, the format for this course may be modified to enable its completion within its programmed time frame. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to the syllabus that will supersede this version.
The University of Maine is committed to making campus a safe place for students. Because of this commitment, if you tell a teacher about an experience of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, relationship abuse (dating violence and domestic violence), sexual misconduct or any form of gender discrimination involving members of the campus, your teacher is required to report this information to the campus Office of Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention or the Office of Equal Opportunity.
If you want to talk in confidence to someone about an experience of sexual discrimination, please contact these resources:
For confidential resources on campus: Counseling Center: 207-581-1392 or Cutler Health Center: at 207-581-4000.
For confidential resources off campus: Rape Response Services: 1-800-310-0000 or Spruce Run: 1-800-863-9909.
Other resources: The resources listed below can offer support but may have to report the incident to others who can help:
For support services on campus: Office of Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention: 207-581-1406, Office of Community Standards: 207-581-1409, University of Maine Police: 207-581-4040 or 911. Or see the OSAVP website for a complete list of services at http://www.umaine.edu/osavp/
Given the variety of backgrounds expected in students for this class, you will be expected to bring perspectives and questions based on your own discipline, expertise, and/or workplace. Everyone's participation in peer-to-peer messages and presentations will be critical to the success of the class.
If the only time you post a message is when you're turning in an assignment then you will have little opportunity to display your understanding of the ideas being discussed and we will not have much information to use when evaluating your success in the class. Ask questions, throw in comments, and generally add to the discussion as much as possible, particularly if you think you missed something or you have a stupid question. Odds are other people are as confused as you are.
As with all classes, it is expected that you will treat others with respect. If you are repeatedly abusive toward your classmates you will be moderated out of the conversation and it will be considered an absence for purposes of the attendance policy.
Grading for your assignments is weighted equally across each week of the class, including the faculty's assessment of your participation; the final project counts for two weeks' worth of assignments. The criteria for participation will be determined by the quality and quality of your online conversations, including asking questions, posting related links, critiquing others' assignments, and responding to threads initiated by the faculty or your classmates.
The more you add thoughtful, insightful comments to the discussion the more both you and other students will benefit. Questions are always welcome and should be asked publicly so that everybody can see the answer unless there is a very good reason to ask privately. In many cases you will be expected to look at and critique other students' work as an absolute minimum level of participation.
This is a graduate level course and you are expected to perform accordingly. Meeting the requirements in an average manner will result in a "C" as the final grade. Better than average effort and execution will result in a "B". An "A" is reserved for those students who demonstrate exceptional creative development, application, innovation, effort, and an in-depth understanding of process. Under normal circumstances a C or lower grade cannot be used as a graduate student to count towards completion of your certificate. Failure to complete any of the required components of your grade with an average or better effort will result in a "D" or an "F" as your final grade.
This section introduces the challenges new media create for traditional forms of social memory, both for individuals and for institutions such as libraries, archives, and museums. Because it's heavy on viewings and readings, the assignment itself shouldn't take you more than a few minutes.
Read this PDF if you don't have the book yet [Password: "curate"]
In the Slack #bio channel, post a brief description of your background and what you hope to get out of this course.
Then tweet a very brief response (less than 140 characters!) to one of the viewings or readings from this week's syllabus. It can be as simple as
We're watching David Weinberger on #DigitalPreservation this week in my class with @DigitCurator http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blah
In Re-collection, Richard Rinehart claims social memory requires people who care. HT @DigitCurator #DigitalPreservation
Then paste your tweet and your Twitter username to the #general channel in Slack.
This week, we detail many of the failure points for preserving digital media, from hardware and software vulnerabilities to obsolete institutional practices and intellectual property laws.
Also included as food for thought are excerpts from texts on the mortality of objects and people. These texts interrogate Euroethnic society's unwillingness to let go, asking whether there are some things that are not meant to be preserved.
This screencast shows an example of how a seemingly archival medium can be vulnerable to obsolescence on many levels. The format is an interactive tutorial; simply choose the correct answer to proceed through the screencast and earn the badge. When you get to the end, authenticate your badge by submitting your University of Maine Gmail (@maine.edu) account at the prompt. Note: don't scrub forward or backwards on the timeline, because that can invalidate your badge. The video player will offer you chances to review the material based on your success with the quizzes.
This anthology draws on the experience of artists, curators, and conservators working in a range of formats and media to outline problems and approaches to preserving contemporary creativity. You'll be asked to read selected chapters from it.
An IBM researcher gives CDs that you burn yourself 2-5 years.
Spoiler: study suggests 50% of hard drives will survive until their sixth birthday.
Begun by Bruce Sterling and maintained by an online community of "media archeologists," the Dead Media list describes a staggering array of practical and impractical media that have become obsolete. Note that this URL uses the categorized version of the list cached at the Internet Archive.
Pick a project you have worked on in the past year. List all the work's technological and cultural aspects that are vulnerable to obsolescence, each in a separate line or paragraph. Look up when each feature emerged (eg, hard drives were introduced in 1956, the computer mouse in 1968) and write down the current age in years of each feature. Then, based on this week's reading and additional research as necessary, write down the number of years you expect each feature to remain viable into the future. Post this list, sorted from most to least permanent, to #achilles-heels.
Pick a technology on the Dead Media List, and invent a fictional scene in which people in the past use the medium the way it was intended. Then invent a second scene in which the characters are transposed to the present, and use the contemporary equivalent of the dead medium described in your first scene. Finally, describe a scene from the future in which present technology is outdated and people use a futuristic medium for the same purpose.
The Dead Media List is full of quirky, exotic-sounding technologies from the past. So pick something more distinctive than simply a humdrum typewriter, camera, or telephone. Here are some examples from past students.
Describe each scene in a paragraph or two, then add a final paragraph describing what has been gained and lost in each transition from old to new technology. Post your entire text in a single message to the appropriate Slack channel.
Post a comment on another student's response to any of this week's posts in Slack. You can also reply to other's replies to you, of course!
Write down all the Twitter handles as reported in the #general Slack channel. You may want to include @DigitCurator and/or other classmates' Twitter handles.
Use your browser to log into http://twitter.com, or fire up a Twitter client. Search for your classmate's Twitter name, then click on each name to follow her or him. Repeat for all names added to Twitter as of today.
Hover over a Tweet in your timeline, then click "Retweet" or "Reply".
If you reply, only users who follow both of you will see your tweet in their timelines.
If you want to add a comment, manually copy-paste the original and type "RT" before the original. Or use a Twitter client that allows an "Edit tweet" or "Quote tweet" option, such as Ecofon, Hootsuite, or Tweetdeck.
(You do not need to add anything to Slack for this assignment.)
Continued examination of dead media, expanding the range of cultures and media.
This overview of the book may help you understand how the chapters fit together.
Read chapters 1, 3, 6, and 9 from Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory. Then post a reaction in four or more paragraphs to the readings as a response to the appropriate Slack channel. Your reaction may include:
* Examples from your own experience that prove, disprove, or extend the points made in the reading.
* Questions for Richard Hollinger or Jon Ippolito.
Finally, post at least one followup comment or question to other students' or teachers' messages in Slack.
This week we focus on the default, yet hardly the best, preservation strategy in use by today's collecting institutions.
This screencast gives an overview of the history and technology of digital storage, from floppy disks to DNA. The lecture also covers several techniques for making storage more reliable, from external backups to RAID to cloud storage.
This tutorial shows why you should save the source media for audiovisual projects. From animation to games, from audio to 3D files, source files are essential for migrating or remixing creative works.
Preservation in the Wild (04:53-21:23)
Preservation by the Wild (21:23-26:15)
Working with the Wild (26:15-28:21)
Jason Scott describes the Internet Archive's crowdsourced approach to acquiring and storing data from the Internet and beyond. See the table of contents to choose section. (Requires Flash)
"Variable Organisms" is probably the most speculative chapter of Re-collection, as it examines a possible future strategy for storage. Read the chapter and post a response of two or more paragraphs in the appropriate Slack channel.
Then please reply to another student's post, either in this channel, another for Week 4, or on Twitter.
Tweet something about digital preservation, either from class or outside. Include a related hashtag such as #DigitalPreservation. Example:
Discussing advantages and disadvantages of DNA storage with fellow @DigitCurator students this week #DigitalPreservation
Choose one of the media categories listed below that hasn't already been claimed by a classmate in the Slack channel (first come, first serve!). Then research the longevity of each file type (and feel free to add more for that category); refer to the DigitalPreservation.gov resource as needed. Finally, distribute the file types into three groups corresponding to short-, medium-, and long-term viability.
Although you may cite external resource/s for your reasoning, I want you to make the argument from principle as well. While no format is truly "archival," a file tends to endure longer if it obeys a open standard, is not compressed, is an (uncompiled) source, and has no patents or encryption.
Post an organized list of your groupings and rationale for them to the appropriate Slack channel.
This week moves from storage onto other preservation strategies, using examples of migrating information from one medium to another to provoke the question of what digital preservation really means.
In this screencast, Jon Ippolito introduces four preservation strategies--storage, migration, emulation, and reinterpretation.
What happens if you make a copy of a copy of a copy (and so on) of a VHS tape? This experiment shows how the quality degrades with every generation. [Feel free to skim. You can also find this video in #reference]
This experiment shows what happens if you apply MPEG-4 video compression repeatedly to a movie. It's also an homage to Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting in a Room. [Feel free to skim. You can also find this video in #reference.]
You can also find this video in #reference. (Ignore "Fractal Design" advertisement from 5 minutes on.)
Select a file from one of the format categories (text, audio, video, etc.) described in the previous week's lesson. (You can use your own file or find one on the Web.) Using one of the online migration tools linked to in this week's lesson, convert your file to the format that is closest to the one you or your classmates choose as the best preservation format. Examine the results to see if there are visible or audible changes resulting from the conversion process. Report in a post to the appropriate Week 5 Slack channel any detectable changes and say whether or not you think they are significant. Also, report any problems you encounter converting the files using this tool.
Please post a response for two of the following scenarios in the appropriate Week 5 Slack channel. In each case, please give the rationale for your position.
1) As part of an archival collection from the 1980s, you receive disks with word-processed files, the labels of which indicate that they contain electronic versions of exactly the same documents as are in the paper files. Would you consider it adequate for preservation purposes to keep just the paper copies, just the electronic copies, or should both be kept? If you could keep only one copy, which would be preferable?
2) As a museum curator, you receive files from a digital visual artist in a proprietary format that is no longer in use. Would migration to another format adequately preserve these pieces of art or would it require viewing them in their original format. If the company that created the program offered one software for creating and editing art and another for viewing it, would it be adequate to preserve the viewing software or would it be necessary to preserve the module in which the art was created?
3) You are the records manager for an organization that has a standing policy that all written communications with foreign contacts should be preserved for eventual transfer to the archives. A few of the staff reported that they are printing copies of emails to and from foreign and then deleting them. Is this practice adequate for preservation purposes?
4) A collection of word-processed documents that have been already processed by a digital curator are transferred to your custody. You discover that each document has been migrated into an XML format that preserves the text in ASCII and retains metadata documenting the software and platform on which it was created and the date of creation. The original documents were not kept. Have these documents been adequately preserved?
5) You are tasked with preserving the web-site of your department. On examining it closely, you find that it has internal links scattered throughout the written text on the web-pages, an RSS reader bringing feeds from an external sources, and a web- interface with a database maintained by another department. Would preservation of static html pages be adequate for preservation? If not, how would you approach this task?
You can also find this video in #reference.
This is the first of two weeks dedicated to emulation, a powerful preservation technique in which newer platforms simulate older platforms.
Sections on "Emulation as a service," "Challenges of an open archive" (optional)
(As digital conservator for the prominent new media platform Rhizome, Dragan Espenschied has contributed to dynamic new tools that help preserve social media and helped develop emulation as a service, which allows any user to access outdated software using nothing more than a Web browser.)
This interactive tutorial introduces three types of emulation that are useful as a preservation strategy, including hardware-for-hardware, software-for-software, and software-for-hardware emulation.
This screencast features excerpts from a panel discussion entitled 'Generation Emulation,' featuring renowned artists and curators who've experimented with emulation as a strategy for both preservation and creation. The discussion was organized by Caitlin Jones, Carol Stringari, and Jon Ippolito as part of the 2004 symposium Echoes of Art in conjunction with the Guggenheim exhibition Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice.
In the #06-gen-emulation channel in Slack, post at least one question about emulation. Your question can be technical ("What's a cathode ray tube?"), aesthetic ("Why isn't Crown TV suitable for emulation?"), or philosophical ("Is it a problem if the young and old view preservation differently?").
Post at least one answer to someone else's question in the #06-gen-emulation channel. Please cite relevant examples from the videos or reading.
This week offers a hands-on exercise in running an emulator, and broadens the perspective to ask how preservationists can exploit the inherent variability of computers to accommodate the relentless procession of new platforms.
This screencast demonstrates a powerful preservation technique in which emulators for recent platforms are nested within emulators for older ones. Following an example used by emulation expert Jeff Rothenberg, this tutorial shows how to emulate the 1949 EDSAC computer inside Windows inside Mac OS X.
Earn the badge for this tutorial by Hillary Cox and Scott Powers, which shows you how to download an emulator and use it to run vintage games on a contemporary Mac.
Although you don't need to exploit all the skills taught in this screencast, the first few minutes of this tutorial will show OS X users how to create a screencast of your emulated game.
Download an emulator and a program to emulate. Feel free to emulate any system, application, or game that you want.
Capture a screenshot of your entire computer desktop, showing the vintage software running in the emulator inside your own host operating system. Post this screenshot along with two or more paragraphs describing your reaction to the experience to the appropriate Slack channel. (You can even post a video screen capture if you want to get fancy.)
In your reaction, you may describe any steps of emulation you found difficult, any special features you found useful or lacking in the emulator you chose, and/or how well using the emulator captured the spirit of the original game or software.
If you've used an emulator before, please share ideas and urls with your classmates; keep in mind that some students will need emulators for Macintosh and others for Windows. And by all means, have fun--how often do you get course credit for playing a computer game?
Post any reactions you have to this week's reading and viewing to the appropriate Slack channel.
Please complete this quick evaluation of the course to date, so we can learn from our mistakes and build on our strengths in the second half of the course.
This week looks at the advantages and disadvantages of reinterpretation as a preservation strategy.
Amateurs and digital preservation (0-35:20) (optional, repeats some material from Storage lesson)
Reinterpretation and the problem of authenticity (35:20-43:18)
Think of an example of reinterpretation in any sphere of life, whether net art mashups, theatrical restagings, transcribed or remixed music, or translations from book to stage to screen, and answer one of the following questions in 2 or more paragraphs:
* Which is more important to preserve, the original recording or the original score? (Recordings include CDs, videotapes, and screencasts; scores include musical scores, scripts, performance instructions, and code).
* Imagine the effects of that reinterpretation persisting longer in the short term than the original form of creative expression. What would be the historical ramifications for cultural heritage?
(A historical note: the original doesn't have to die for the reinterpretation to take over. In the 1800s and early 1900s, before the age of recordings, Beethoven symphonies were known primarily through their piano transcriptions by composers like Franz Liszt. Liszt's reinterpretations allowed more listeners to hear and appreciate Beethoven, and subsequently his symphonies were rediscovered and re-performed in more or less their original form. So you may want to consider the role of reinterpretations in supplying access to a version of the original experience in the long run.)
Post your answer to the question you chose in the appropriate channel.
Pose a question or response to someone else's comment in that channel.
Please post any ideas or questions you have for a final project in this class to the appropriate channel. Below are two option you can select from for your project. You may also, with the approval of both instructors, do a project of your own design.
This entails downloading, installing, and using a program long enough to be able to identify its strengths and weaknesses. The review should document your own experiences with it, identify its limits, and explain in what contexts (if any) you recommend it use. The software can be selected from the following lists, but you should choose a preservation tool:
digitalcurationexchange.org/resources (make sure to check "tools" on this list to everything available)
Please get approval of the tool you want to review from Richard before proceeding.
This option for a DIG 550 final project asks you to study a real-world work of variable media and document how it should be preserved for posterity. Your professors will offer a list of prominent works of new media art, and an artist, curator, or conservator familiar with each who is willing to participate in an interview. (You may also suggest a work yourself to be approved by the faculty.) You'll learn how to use the Variable Media Questionnaire via screencasts and screensharing with your instructor, then apply it to document opinions on how the work should be preserved in the future. You'll find some tutorials on using the Variable Media Questionnaire here.
Please obtain three files in different formats, at least one of which should be text-based (i.e., word-processed, .pdf, html, etc.) You may use your own files or download files from the web. If possible put these on an empty flash drive, CD, or floppy-disk to conduct the following exercises. Otherwise, create a separate directory for them. See the Resource section below for the programs needed to conduct these exercises.
1) Disk Imaging Exercise. If you are using a Windows computer, download either the Forensic Imager or FTK Image and use it to generate a disk image of the disk or directory on which the files are saved.
If you are using a Mac, you can use the disk utility to create the disk image.
If possible, this image should be in AFF, an xml format that is being used for digital curation. I have listed the two imaging programs that seem easiest to install and use, but you are free to use other programs if you prefer. Disk imaging can take a long time for all but the smallest storage devices, which is why I recommend using a flash drive with just the downloaded files on it. There should be both a disk image (large) and a summary or report in a text format.
2) Fixity Exercise. If you are using a Windows computer, download the "Directory Printer"; if you are using a Mac, download "Checksum for Mac." These tools use different algorithms to generate "checksums" for each of the files. The checksums should remain the same each time the file is scanned with the same algorithm, unless the file has been altered. I suggest using the MD5 algorithm for this exercise.
Once you have gotten checksums for each of the files, open one of the files that is text-based and alter it by adding or removing text. Change the name of a second file without opening it. Open and save a third file without making any changes. Now run the checksums again, using the same algorithm. Please note any changes that have resulted from these changes.
3) File identification exercise. Download and install DROID.
Once installed, you need to use the "add files" feature to add each of the files you downloaded. Once this is done, you can click on "identify" and it will identify the software that created the file. In the window in the lower part of the screen there is an element listed as PUID. This coincides with a specific software version in the PRONOM software registry developed by the UK National Archives. You can click on the number to access more information about the software version in the registry.
4) Post. Please post about your experiences with each of these exercises, including any problems you had with them. Also post about two of the readings assigned for this week.
(These will not be used in the week’s assignment but you might want to look at them)
Please select a digital repository to examine. Then explore its web-site to determine whether there is adequate documentation to assess whether it has met the each of the ISO 16363 criteria listed below. If there is sufficient data, indicate whether you think it has met this requirement, and explain the evidence you have used to make this determination. Then post your report.
You may wish to use the Hathi Trust certification document or the evidence suggested in “TRAC Metrics” as examples of what constitutes adequate evidence. Remember that putting most this information on their website is probably the easiest way for them demonstrate a transparent process.
This is available through Academic Search Complete, which can be accessed on Fogler Library 's index and databases page.
Available through Academic Search Complete, which can be accessed on Fogler Library's index and databases page.
In this screencast, Jon Ippolito describes how to categorize new media works by media-independent behaviors, and why this approach can accommodate a wide range of technological and performative works.
Choose a repository software from this list. Using the documentation available on the website for the program, or from related sites, try to determine whether it offers or supports the following:
1) Does it automatically extract metadata during the process of ingest? If so, what kind of metadata?
2) Does it periodically run checksums (fixity checks) on the digital objects in the repository?
3) Does it automatically log every action relating to digital objects in the collection such as migration to new formats, checksums (fixity checks), instances of data corruption, and replacement of the object with a backup copy?
4) Can it generate an audit trail for actions taken in relationship to an object or group of objects?
5) Does it provide a means to link multiple components of a complex digital object and copies of the same object in different formats?
6) Does it maintain a log of access denial incidents?
If you cannot locate some of this information, just report that to be the case. Then post it to this week's channel.
(Extracts metadata about a file and outputs it into PREMIS format)
The final week/s are devoted to an end-of-term project agreed upon by student and instructors.