18.280 loss and preservation

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 08:01:32 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 280.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                   www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
                        www.princeton.edu/humanist/
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Maurizio Lana <m.lana_at_lett.unipmn.it> (39)
         Subject: Re: 18.276 loss of information

   [2] From: Patrick Durusau <Patrick.Durusau_at_sbl-site.org> (29)
         Subject: Preservation Reflex was Re: 18.274 losing it

--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------
         Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 07:55:06 +0100
         From: Maurizio Lana <m.lana_at_lett.unipmn.it>
         Subject: Re: 18.276 loss of information

At 11.08 10/10/2004 +0100, you wrote:
>I'm interested in this last set of claims, particularly about the CDs. It
>seems to me this is open to the same challenge Nicolson Baker made against
>claims that "our newspaper heritage" was crumbling away and needed to be
>microfilmed (and later, digitised). The average age of a CD is supposed to
>be twenty-years? Aren't CD's about 20 years on the market now? I'm not
>aware of any massive failures, so I wonder how the average lifetime was
>determined.
i think there's more than the 20 years issue: even before 20 years from
publication, your cd remains physically damaged (very serious scratch;
crack; perforation; separation of the plastic layers, ... ). any of these
means that the data on your cd are lost. now take a book: any physical
damage doesn't damage irreparably the entire book.

>[...] The BBC project was a custom-made machine: data, presentation, and
>hardware we
>(almost) inextricably linked. It was made just as the international
>standards we now use were begining to appear, and hence to early to take
>advantage of their robustness. I think it would be hard to create such
>obsolescence in a modern standards-based project.
[...]
> Early webpages--even
>non-standard ones using, for example, the Netscape blink tag, are likely to
>last much longer (although, interestingly, I think ones using <layer>s are
>now in trouble)

the standards can take into account the soft layer of the problem: data
format and software able to read that format. bur even the easier format,
text (html, and others, are variations about the text format) if put onto a
cd can be lost if the support is physically damaged.
than there's the hard layer of the problem: the support itself. take a
Babylonian tablet: after so much thousand years, you need only your eyes to
read it. now what if we were in the year 10472 and need to read a cd of
year 2004? who knows the format physical /logical of the disc? and the
format of the data? and the program able to read that data format? and the
hardware able to accomplish all these tasks?

maurizio

Maurizio Lana - ricercatore
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici - UniversitÓ del Piemonte Orientale a Vercelli
via Manzoni 8, I-13100 Vercelli
+39 347 7370925 / +39 011 8609843

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------
         Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 07:55:28 +0100
         From: Patrick Durusau <Patrick.Durusau_at_sbl-site.org>
         Subject: Preservation Reflex was Re: 18.274 losing it

Willard,

Although an advocate for electronic access to everything and consequently
good archiving/migration policies and practices, I am curious if our
preservation 'reflex' is really all that appropriate?

Simply because, with good archiving and migration policies, we can preserve
everything that exists in electronic form, does that mean that we should
undertake that as a goal?

I am mindful that such classical literature as survives did so only because
of chance and someone deciding it was worth the effort to preserve it.

While probably not thought of at the time as such, isn't such preservation
or lack thereof, a filter that has separated out the 'noise' in Greek
literature for example?

What will it mean as increasing numbers of resources are available
electronically and we never lose any of them?

I must confess to favoring the preserve everything position but suspect
that is more of an emotional response than a rational one. We imagine that
if more Greek drama had been preserved it would be as edifying as what was
preserved. Perhaps, perhaps not. Perhaps we would be disappointed in a much
larger corpus and less able to separate the gold from the dross.

Hope you are having a great day!

Patrick

--
Patrick Durusau
Director of Research and Development
Society of Biblical Literature
Patrick.Durusau_at_sbl-site.org
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
Received on Tue Oct 12 2004 - 03:13:40 EDT

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