Information has been for many centuries a mean to pass on different facts from generation to generation. Things like the Holocaust or the Indian massacres in the Americas live in our conscience, but can be proved only by the documents that have told us about them. I have picked these exact two examples because they are opposites in terms of information preservation. If we consider the Holocaust, any of its contesters can be countered by using documents of the time like the videos that the Nazis made in the extermination camps, the enraged speeches that the Nazi leaders held against the Jewish communities or the testimonies of the survivors. The Indian extermination, however, is not backed up by documents at such a level. Some of the reasons for this are the fact that the Indians relied more on oral preservation of information, from generation to generation, and to the fact that data and information did not benefice from material support like in the other case. These two examples show us the need to store and preserve information and data so that the future generations can benefice from it and learn from historical mistakes (as is the case here).
The first article, the report of the Task Force on archiving digital information, bases its ideas on how data and information can be stored and preserved. However, as it is the case today, we are dealing less and less with books or videos, but more and more with digital information. The digital age has brought the means to better store and preserve information: faster access, additional means of access, a better chance that the information will survive, all these are positive aspects that the digital technology has brought along. However, the challenges are just as numerous. For once, complexity may be a possible threat, for another, "rapid changes in the means of recording information, in the formats for storage and in the technologies for use threaten to render the life of information in the digital age as, to borrow a phrase from Hobbes, "nasty, brutish and short.." Additionally, the digital age as we see it today also means that a large portion of information is found and exchanged over the Internet. Becoming more and more of a complex library, how can we ensure that information stored on the Internet will not become a chaotic environment where much of it will be lost? Having referred to a library, information there can be easily traced by using available catalogues, however, the "Internet library" is becoming "a chaotic repository for the collective output of the world's digital printing presses." Thus, the two articles we have at hand deal with several problems raised by information in the digital age. On one hand, we are faced with a storage and preservation problem, on the other, with how to organize the digital information, in the form of over the Internet data, so that it can be best retrieved and used.
For the continuous preservation of digital information, the Task Force proposes a new and interesting concept, migration. Migration can be described as "is the periodic transfer of digital materials from one hardware/software configuration to another or from one generation of computer technology to a subsequent generation." Its purpose is to "preserve the integrity of digital objects and to retain the ability for clients to retrieve, display, and otherwise use them in the face of constantly changing technology." Let us briefly discuss this new concept, as it is presented in the document. One of the challenges that digital information and digital information storage faces is technological obsolesce. This means that the technical support onto which the digital information is stored may, in time, become used and out of date. We can all identify, for example, with the situation in which something stored on a floppy disk can no longer be retrieved, either because the disk has become used or because errors have appeared that make retrieval impossible. One of the solutions that migration proposes is moving the information from several floppy disks onto a CD-ROM. The advantages are two fold: first of all, it will be more probable that the life expectancy for the information stored onto the CD-ROM will be longer and, second of all, it will mean a better archiving device, considering the fact that it is easier to retrieve information from one CD-ROM than from 500 floppy disks.
The Task Force proposes several interesting migration strategies that are worth analyzing. As it is mentioned in the document, if the migration of digital information in relatively simple files is a well established action (as I have described it in the examples here above), the challenge comes when discussing and taking into consideration "more complex digital objects." One of the strategies that can be used in this case is to "to transfer digital materials from less stable to more stable media." The more stable media that are referred to here include printing the data on paper (indeed, it is to be assumed that by this method, at least some of the digital errors can be avoided) and recording it on microfilm. Of course, paper and microfilm are not novelties in what information storage is concerned. Indeed, we can actually trace this type of storage back to Egyptian times.
It may thus appear strange to turn to a millenary technique in the midst of the digital revolution, but the advantages that such a support provides are still to be recognized. This type of migration strategy also has the great advantage of being rather cheap compared to other methodologies and may remain "the preferred method of storage for many institutions."
Another migration strategy that the Task Force proposes is "to migrate digital objects from the great multiplicity of formats used to create digital materials to a smaller, more manageable number of standard formats that can still encode the complexity of structure and form of the original." An important concept that is further discussed in the second article, referring to organizing information over the Internet, appears here, that of managing the data and the storage materials. Changing the format will have additional advantages besides manageability, like "preserving more of the display, dissemination, and computational characteristics of the original object."
We have discussed so far the first problem proposed in the initial paragraphs, that of storage and preserving digital information, as well as several migration strategies that the Task Force brings forth. Let us turn to the second proposed issue: organizing and managing data over the Internet. I have already mentioned in the introductory paragraphs that the Internet has become over the years, an almost infinite source of information, a modern library where almost anything can be found. The challenges that the digital age faces regarding the Internet is how to manage this enormous source of information so that it can be best accessed and used.
The problem was that the Internet boom was never structured and organized, so that the chaos that now best characterizes the information sources over the Internet may in time prove somewhat dangerous. Metadata schemes may come to good use in this case. Metadata can be described as "data about data" and its focus is exactly the likes discussed above: sources of information that help organize data. We may ask ourselves whether a common metadata standard may come in handy when discussing organizing information over the Internet. The article's conclusion is that such a standard "may be useless if it is not implemented widely."
As any action, metadata and organizing information over the Internet must have an incentive. The incentive in this case, as in many others for that matter, seems to be financial. How do we implement a metadata scheme in an institution? In this article, the answer seems to be by providing a financial incentive and my attracting several members of the business community in such a program. The article identifies two possible functions that metadata may fulfill in the business community.
The first function relates to advertising. This function has the advantage of being a possible financial incentive, with the declared goal of "catch the attention of online searchers." However, this is only a small portion of what metadata is really about. The second function is much more important, as it relates to the actual meaning of metadata ("data about data"), that is "institution's electronic records and non-advertising documents."
Of course, the profit-driven incentive in this case is not that obvious. However, analyzing the content of the article, I have given some thought to the fact that a better organization of the companies' digital records and information ca, in the long run, only prove beneficial. In fact, it is almost the same case as when discussing the traditional, paper documents. The fact that they are better organized will definitely mean a better time management, because much of the time allocated to finding a specific document will be saved.
Referring to the academic community, it seems that it also is moving towards adopting…