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Identifying the many faces of digital preservation research – iPRES2012 (2)

3 oktober 2012 Gepubliceerd door 2 Commentaren

While many are struggling to implement the results of digital preservation research so far (after all, we cannot just buy another system every time new approaches are discovered), others are looking to “step beyond the limitations of solutions that are applicable now, and develop concepts, models and solutions for upcoming challenges” – which is a quote from the announcement for the Open Research Challenges in Digital Preservation workshop at iPRES2012. – by Inge Angevaare

“Get away from day-to-day reality,” said co-organizer Christopher Becker of TU Wien at the beginning of the workshop, “and really look ahead.” Taking advantage of the moment to pitch the SCAPE project Becker is involved in, he went on to say, “As amazing as the SCAPE project is, there still are a few research challenges left.

Christoph Becker: “There are many perspectives, but they all relate to each other.”

Quite a bit more than a few, as the workshop demonstrated. The themes that were tabled by co-organizers Becker, Andreas Rauber (both of TU Wien) and Cal Lee of the University of North Carolina were broad:

  1. Digital information models
  2. Value, utility, cost, risk and benefit
  3. Organizational aspects
  4. Experimentation, simulation, and prediction
  5. Changing paradigms, shift, evolution
  6. Future content and the long tail.

No fewer than 60 digital preservation experts from around the world took these questions on in six round-table discussions in varying formations. Which led to an incredibly tense 8-hour session, which I will not summarize for you in a mere blog post. I simply could not do it, especially not on the same night. Fortunately, I do not have to. There will be a full report from the group chairs and I will come back to that in due course. But I would like to share some first impressions with you.

To get us off to a good start, there were no fewer than ten (!) ten-minute presentations with suggestions for research topics. You can find all of them on the workshop website, with short papers to clarify the positions. I suggest you have a look at that page: http://digitalpreservationchallenges.wordpress.com, because it will give you a sense of the incredible variety and depth of topics we got to deal with – before the first coffee break.

The inevitable beamer-breakdown-moment befell René van Horik of the Dutch Data Archive DANS who presented the challenge of moving from theory into practice

What ensued during the workshop also reflected the many different aspects of digital preservation (DP). For DP is a truly interdisciplinary subject:

  • There were talks about “information models”: what are we preserving? What is information? What is data? What type of unit should we consider?
  • There were talks about the economic aspects: what is the value we produce? What is the cost? How can we balance costs against risks?

Rainer Schmidt chairing the table on value, utility, cost, risk and benefit

  • There were talks about the social and psychological dimensions: how are we, as humans, dealing with this incredibly new digital world? Can we cope with the “chaos” of the internet, and how?
  • There were talks about the organizational cultures in which the systems and models must be embedded:

Fiorella Foscarini: “Technology is never neutral – the cultural element should be on the digital preservation agenda.”

  • There were talks about Google and Amazon and whether perhaps we in the digital preservation community are trying to re-invent the wheel …
Quote of the day: “Where is OAIS? It is in DropBox.” (Petar Petrov)

 

  • There were talks about roles and responsibilities in an international information space while we still have nation states and national legal deposit schemes and concepts such as grey literature: they do not seem to fit anymore, but how to devise a new “world information order”?

Cal Lee organizing his group’s notes on organizational issues

At the end of the day, I think all of our heads were spinning with the multitude of issues to be considered.

Changing tables and topics every 25 minutes

But it was a great experience to freely exchange all our ideas with committed colleagues from all over the world. And when the dust settles, I am sure much good will come of it.

(to be continued!)

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