WC – Blog Post #2

From what I have come to understand, preserving data is the practice of ensuring what is already available to people, continues to be available. For lack of better words, to preserve data is to ensure its survival for future generations. Aggregating data refers to the act of adding or collecting new digital history to make available to the open public. For example, if I were to begin digitally transcribing books and works from an older, maybe even forgotten authors, and then uploaded it to an open media source website with free viewing rights, then I would be effectively aggregating data to the web. Each practice contains its own challenges; for preserving data you must remain aware of server space and memory storage; curating data requires a considerable amount of academic effort to accurately represent data, and aggregating data requires research, knowledge of web programming and creative design to build an optimal presentation or web page.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the field of digital history is the ever-ongoing conflict over intellectual property rights. Property rights are just as big a deal on the web as they are in real life. As S Smith showed us in class, most of the money spent on earlier digital projects – such as his Elizabeth Murray project – rests in the scanned portraits of herself and other figures mentioned in the project. The issues with intellectual rights are on both sides of the argument as well, especially with the issue of copyright infringement. Digital historians must take extra precaution with the materials included in their project to avoid violating copyrights, as well as taking the precaution to ensure that their work isn’t viewed as plagiarism, or becomes a source of plagiarism for others browsing the web.

If I were to launch a digital history project of my own family history I would probably prefer to keep it to closed editing and take extra caution in determining what is to remain private or enter the public sphere. After all, family is a more personal theme for most people and in this sense the direction of the project carries its own personal route. In terms of design and user interface, I would arrange information in browsable categories (for example, a family member category with drop-down options for prominent members), but also include a general essay within the project to provide viewers with a summary of the project. Depending on the scope of the project I can add interactive media, charts, or maps to visually present ideas. Ultimately for a project such as this, I would decide what final content is included by evaluating each piece’s value to the overall vision of the project.

When it comes to data preservation for specific projects and databases, it really is up to the archivist to determine what is important enough to preserve, and what isn’t. Of course, this leads to an issue dealing with bias. After all, if these archives are all that will remain a thousand years from now, future generations will view the data preserved as important, while the content that wasn’t preserved will be long forgotten or disregarded. In terms of organizing and preserving content for researchers and others, perhaps it’d be best for archivists to use simplified interfaces with broad categories and easy access to more specific content.

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