Preserving Your Digital Life

By aguzmanb

In class we mention Facebook, Twitter or any of the other – what feels like – million social media platforms and how it is information, or does creating a post make you an information laborer, etc. This got me thinking about how when we grew up, or when our parents grew up, we had photo or music albums or videos, maybe letters from our friends or families, and those are safe somewhere in your home. But nowadays most of our lives are online, in the million of social media platforms. So i decided to look for a webinar in preserving these precious memories we save online. I found one in the American Library Association website! It is literally called Preserving Your Digital Life, first aired on April 28 of this year – they have an archive of their webinars, link is below.

The webinar is described as “Our stories as individuals and as members of a community are preserved in each of our homes … —not just in libraries, archives, and museums. … The ability to easily create audio and video recordings leads to deep and rich documentation of events that may be personally important … Preserving these narratives for our families and for future generations means considering how we create the files and how we store them.” It sounded perfect to me! I’ll get to learn how to preserve my memories, and it’ll be simple enough where I can share with my parents and they can do it at home. Once I started watching, I realize this is more for someone who wants to preserve their memories because they may be important in a local or national significance, not for the average person. I’ll comment more on this as I go through the webinar.

The speakers of the webinar were Krista White – Digital Humanities Librarian – and Isaiah Beard – Digital Data Curator – both from Rutgers University. The intention of the lecture is to preserve audio and video files that document our personal and community’s “digital lives.” One of the first things they went over that I didn’t expect – though why didn’t I? – was that we should digitize the photographs, films or other objects that are forgotten but important to us. It is important for us to remember, while digitizing our lives, that certain electronics and softwares become outdated. Hence, the files you are trying to preserve may be lost forever. [This is one of the biggest problems New Media conservation in the art world has to daily deal with.] The best way to figure out which files or works you may want to preserve is to think: how will I feel if this picture, movie or sound recording goes away and I can never get it back? This is something they brought up that I never really thought about – again, why didn’t I? It is something we should keep in mind as you weave through your collection.

I really appreciated the speakers sharing the preservation terminology for those who are not familiar since they may encounter them when going through the settings of the app or software you end up using. Other than sampling rate, I was familiar with all of the terms, whether through art preservation or just life. The continued to break things down by explaining metadata, what it is and how we can use it. As someone new to library science, I appreciated the explanation – it was like Metadata for Dummies. They mainly focused on descriptive metadata – it connects objects to each other, i.e. a birthday video with the birthday photos, – technical metadata – the how and when we create something, – and rights metadata – who has the copyright, and who can do what with the object. For personal use we don’t need to worry too much about copyright but people in cultural institutions do. Then the webinar went into the different file formats and the preservation standards of sound and video. The speakers also shared where to find the guides for such standards, i.e. the Library of Congress, and the National Recording Preservation Board, etc. Storage devices were also gone over. They encouraged for everybody to have three copies of your data, two different storage formats and one backup copy offsite. This I found very extreme for someone just trying to preserve your memories. I personally save my files – photos, videos and documents – on a hard drive or the cloud and on the computer, which seems to be more than enough.

The speakers went into the steps you should take if you are considering preserving and digitizing your files: inventory, device and app evaluation, file formats, create metadata, and data integrity. An important thing to remember – which they stressed multiple times – is to keep the files as unedited and unmodified as possible. Also, to make sure the object is not connected to only one software, i.e. only works on a Mac or on a PC, or an old software on a PC, etc., because it’ll be really hard, if not impossible, to access the content.

The lecture was presented as “primarily intended for individuals, but will also be of interest to local historical societies and other cultural heritage groups.” I believe it should’ve been presented the other way. Although, this was an interesting webinar that will definitely come in handy in the future in terms of my career – if I decided to get into digital humanities or digitization of rare books – however, I believe the steps shown are a bit extreme for personal use. This is of course, unless you believe your family will be – or is – very important locally or nationally and this information may be subject to a study or these files will be donated to a cultural institution. This webinar can be seen as an introduction into a career in library science, information science or preservation since it does go into enough depth to wet your whistle.

Any quotations within the text were taken from the website or from one of the speakers.


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