Principles of Information Systems Session 05 Recording and Remembering
Recording and Remembering Chapter 4
“Life without memory is life with no connections to your past, present and future and no ties to the events and people around you” Susumu Tonegawa
Overview Learning objectives • Introduction • The act of recording • Remembering • Other aspects of memory • Summary
Learning objectives • Explain why it is essential for ideas or knowledge to persist through time for individuals and groups • Compare the issues involved in written versus non-written records for a culture • Choose an appropriate form and medium to record something in • Outline the principles of electronic records management • List and describe several types of digital and non-digital storage media
Learning objectives • Describe some strategies to ensure digital data is not lost over time • Describe several ways in which stored information can become inaccurate over time • List and describe the problems and some strategies for long term digital preservation • Explain how memory and ideas can persist through time in a society or an organisation • Explain the role of translators, librarians and archivists in ensuring that stored memory can be understood in the future
What did you do today? How will you remember this tomorrow?
I tell my friends • I keep a diary… • I have a blog … • I write to do lists in my PDA… • I wrote an essay… • I got a receipt from the ATM … • I take photos with my mobile phone… • I wrote a letter… • I backed up my computer … • …
Introduction • The act of recording • Remembering • Other aspects of memory • Summary Introduction • We have seen how observations, ideas and discovered data may be communicated and represented between humans • To ensure this information can be used in the future, or outside its immediate context, it must be recorded in some way • So what do you record, and how do you store it? • And how do you make sure it will still be there when you come back for it?
Introduction • Making a record also reduces the burden on human memory – you don’t have to know everything, just where to find it • What you store and how you store it determines how readily you can find it again
Digital information • The vast majority of information now produced is in digital format, either: • Born digital (such as emails, text messages, digital photos) • Digitised (such as scanned paper documents, digitised versions of old movies) • Lots of this is ephemeral – needed only for an immediate purpose • But what should be kept, what has ongoing value: • To an individual? • To society as a whole?
Introduction • The act of recording • Remembering • Other aspects of memory • Summary The act of recording • One of the most basic technologies for recording is writing • Any visible form of language, including pictograms and hieroglyphics • Writing makes information potentially available to all members of a culture and across time
view When information is communicated verbally, there must be a continuous, living link – often across generations
view Recording information enables it to be removed from its original context and retrieved later, in a different one
Written and non-written languages • Written language “can be collected, stored, examined, manipulated and analysed in ways (traditionally) impossible for spoken language” • In earlier societies trained scribes preserved social remembering and culture using languages available to them Chafe & Tannen, 1987
Written and non-written languages • Knowledge that is explicitly not intended for collection and manipulation may not be written down • Sacred or secret material or practices may be held only by elders or privileged members of the society • Some languages may not even have a written form • A purely spoken language, however, is only one generation away from extinction, and depends on a living link
Should everything be recorded? • Researchers may try to preserve a spoken language and the ideas and cultural heritage embedded in its stories it from extinction • There are risks of writing down stories that are traditionally oral: • No control over who may read them • Misinterpretation of meaning • Exploitation of the original culture by outsiders • What do you think – is it worth it
Recording information • A recording is never as good as the original • A film of a concert compared with being there • A translation of a poem • The record of your day in your diary compared with living it • This means that choosing what to record, and how to record it, is an important decision
Recording information • Choosing a representation for the record to be stored • Who will use the record, does it have enough information for their purpose, is it in a form they can understand? • What storage medium? • Paper or digital document; film or digital image; analogue music or digital audio… • Which digital format?
Which digital format to choose? • Whether it has the features you need for the particular purpose • Quality - ‘true colour’ image, or CD-quality audio • Amount of storage required by the format • Portability • How widely supported the format is by application software • Whether it is likely to remain available in the future • ‘Official’ standards are guaranteed to persist, though may not be the best quality for the immediate purpose
Formats and standards • Some formats are developed by official standards bodies, such as ISO or W3C • JPEG images, PNG images, MPEG video and audio • Other formats are proprietary, orowned by a software company • GIF images, TIFF images in scanners • Some proprietary formats are so widely used and supported that they are known as‘de facto’ standards • PDF documents, MOV, WMA
Formats • Sometimes the simplest format is the most likely to persist • Project Gutenberg, which aims to record all the world’s great books, is storing them as plain ASCII text • This is almost guaranteed to be readable in the future, though does not have many features of more sophisticated formats (such as fancy fonts or page layout)
Recap Recorded information is never as good quality as the original experience, so it is important to choose the right medium and format for a digital record
Managing electronic documents and records • Records management (and information management generally) is likely to be a key skill for informatics professionals • Huge amounts of digital information is being produced as a by-product of normal commercial transactions • Many government, business or medical organisations require information to be kept for legal purposes
Managing electronic documents and records involves… • Storing information • Tracking and locate information, finding gaps in a collection, or missing items • Answering queries about information • Keeping valuable assets secure, accessible only to the authorised • Deciding what is worth keeping • trade off between information collection and storage costs, and its value in a future context
Managing electronic documents and records • Storage • Indexing • Access • Preservation • Security • Governance • Social continuation of knowledge
Introduction • The act of recording • Remembering • Other aspects of memory • Summary Remembering • Things are recorded so that they can be remembered • By an individual • By an organisation • By a government • By a society • The record substitutes for an individual’s memory or personal experience
Storage • Storage is a way of ensuring something persists • Any record will last as long as the medium it is stored on (digital or non-digital) lasts • A storage strategy involves: • Choice of storage medium • Storage strategy – what to back up, and how frequently • Replication – multiple copies are usually made
Backing up a movie collection over several disks 3 movies, 4 disks
Backing up a movie collection over several disks If this disk is lost we can still recover Movie 1 from the other disks
Backing up a movie collection over several disks If this disk is lost we can still recover Movie 2 from the other disk
Backing up a movie collection over several disks If this disk is lost we can still recover Movie 2 from the other disk
Backing up a movie collection over several disks If this disk is lost we can still recover Movie 3 from the other disks
“Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe” • LOCKSS is a strategy for making sure a library can continue to maintain its digital collection of article through time • Individual libraries in the LOCKSS collective don’t have to keep backups of all their collections, because the entire collection is constantly circulating among all members • Peer-to-peer checking between documents makes sure there is always a correct copy in circulation
Storage media • Magnetic media • Hard disks, floppy disks, external drives • Optical media • CD-ROM (CD-RW, CD-R) • Flash memory • USB sticks, memory sticks • Storage Area Networks • Link different types of storage together over a high speed network • Online storage • Photos, videos etc stored on remote website
“Archives are the documents accumulated by a natural process in the course of the conduct of affairs of any kind, public or private, at any date, and preserved thereafter for reference, in their own custody, by the persons responsible of the affairs in question of their successors” Sir Hilary Jenkinson photos artistic works written documents personal collections maps dances films newspapers CDs carvings sound recordings oral records buildings cave paintings
Archiving • Archives provide a record of all types of documents relevant to cultural memory • The counterpart to this is memoricide, where museums and cultural archives are deliberately destroyed under ‘ethnic cleansing’ regimes • Archives are physically housed in dedicated institutions • This involves expertise in security, climate control, space usage, etc
Digital asset management • Increasingly, the documents that are stored as records or archives are digital (either born digital, or digitised) • Similar issues apply to categorising, labelling, searching, etc • But long term preservation of digital artefacts brings its own issues and challenges
Recap Records management is a key skill for informatics professionals. It involves issues of storage, indexing, access, preservation, security, governance, and the social continuation of knowledge.
What software do you currently have on your computer?What are your backups stored on?
What would your answer have been this time last year?What would it have been 5 years ago?
“Digital documents last forever or five years, whichever is sooner” Jeff Rothenberg
Preservation and digital preservation • Preservation is an aspect of archiving that ensures what is stored survives in good condition • Digital preservation is doing this for digital or digitised artefacts Digital preservation: A process by which digital data is preserved in digital form in order to ensure the usability, durability and intellectual integrity of the information contained therein
Digital preservation • The definition emphasises the preservation of the information contained in the digital artefact, rather than the artefact itself • This means that the strategies for preserving digital objects are different from those traditionally used to preserve physical objects • A book may decay, but the words in it are preserved in digital form
Digital longevity Howard Besser identified 5 classic problems: • The viewing problem • We cannot see what is on a disk or file without the relevant software • The scrambling problem • Many files are encrypted or compressed, and the schemes for de-crypting may become lost
Digital longevity • The translation problem • Changing the form of a digital artefact may change its meaning • The inter-relation problem • Many digital artefacts such as websites have many component parts – where is the ‘boundary’ of the object? • The custodial problem • Who is responsible for preserving digital information?
Digital longevity • The problem of authenticity is also significant – especially for ‘born digital’ artefacts • How do we know that a digital artefact has not been modified (intentionally or otherwise) since it was created? • This is a growing problem in legal informatics, where digital documents may be required as evidence
Strategies for digital preservation ? • Replication • Simply copying the artefact on to different media, or more up to date media • Avoids the problem of media rot but not format obsolescence • Migration • Moving to a different format and/or updating the media on which the artefact is stored • Standard archival formats are used to counter obsolescence
Strategies for digital preservation • Emulation • Preserving the original ‘look and feel’ of the artefact through emulating the hardware and software platform of the original in software • Old arcade games • Encapsulation • Storing the artefact together with metadata and other information required to run it
Version control • As soon as a digital document is revised and saved elsewhere you have two versions – so need some form of version control • This involves • A consistent naming convention to identify different copies • Controlling who has access to the various copies, and how they can modify them