The shift from print to digital publishing has meant that the longevity of a text is now seemingly infinite. Data permanence is something we have to consider these days in relation to what we publish. In the past, if all 100 copies of a book were burnt and destroyed, that book and its contents would cease to exist. Nowadays you could write an article, which could be referenced and cited by other articles, hosted on other blogs, and a digital snapshot of the page could be taken. All of a sudden it is difficult to destroy all copies of the text.
At the moment, organisations like “The Internet Archive” are collecting texts such as, music, videos, academic articles and journalistic articles and creating an online library for “contemporary academics and future historians”. Their goal is to create a free online library which archives important information for the future. Though this task has its difficulties, when collating data from the internet there are some factors to consider:
Data must be stored in a format which can be meaningfully accessed now and in the future.
If data requires a special program to view it, say, as an image, then software must also be available to both interpret the basic data file and also render it appropriately. In some cases, this might also require special hardware.
Data must remain available in the long term.
At present a growing problem is the time taken to reproduce an archive, for instance following a hardware or system upgrade. Since the sheer volume of archive data continues to grow, new hardware is always required to maintain the archive.
Digital rights management
Maintaining digital information in an accurate and accessible format over an extended retention period also must address the requirements of the authors’ digital rights.
Digital information must be able to be reproduced as originally intended or available.
This is significant especially where the original data was produced on technology at a lower level than currently possible. For example, archivists try to maintain the distinction between listening to a gramophone record played on a gramophone as opposed to a digitally cleaned version of the same recording through a modern hi-fi system.”
The ever expanding wealth of information to collect is matched by the constant need to update technology. The rate at which technology is updated could mean that some texts become obsolete as they can no longer be read by new forms of software as that version is too dated. This would mean that every text, once archived, would constantly need to be updated to a format that is compatible with new technology. The alternative is that technology should adapt to read both old and new forms of text.
The implications of having data permanence ever ready at our finger tips could be both positive and negative for the media industry.
Suddenly we can search for sources of information in one place, making it easier to reference and back up your own knowledge. This is especially important for students like myself, who could find academic essays online that once before may have only been located in university libraries in other states or countries.
Negatively, data permanence means that once something is published, it is extremely difficult to destroy.
An update of the copyright laws could be needed as well, as author’s intent may only want their work to exist through one medium, but with the constant update of technology and the greater ease for people to reference other works, they may find that their works are being taken and used in ways that are still legal under the current copyright laws or perhaps, as we are currently experiencing, are extremely hard to govern (re: internet piracy and distribution).
Another aspect to consider is that what becomes data permanent may not be data we want to share. Information collected through social media and search engines such as google may breach a privacy issue as their collection of metadata about our search histories and other information could be used against us. This is speculation but it could be a possible issue of the future.
Digital permanence, Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_permanence accessed 10/8/14
Internet permanence, The Economist, G.F
http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/01/internet-permanence accessed 10/8/14
https://archive.org/about/ accessed 10/8/14