Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Digital longevity

One of the last assignments students do in IST 677 - Creating, Managing and Preserving Digital Assets - is to write a paper about a group of digital assets that they have (or perhaps deal with at work) and discuss how those assets are or are not being kept alive for the long term. (There are specific points that the papers have to discuss.) Several things stood out to me this semester, after reading 34 papers:

A growing number of people are concerned about the ability to use their collection of video games for decades to come. Whether or not you like video games, you will agree that they have become an important artifact of our society. They say something about who we are and how we use technology. They are not just games anymore, but are stories with their own musical scores. Some even mimic reality (thinking specifically of the games from EA Sports).

Video games are hard to preserve for a number of reasons including proprietary software and hardware formats, and DRM. They are also complex in structure, including how newer games interact with files in different locations (e.g., the cloud). While each student who is interested in keeping their video games for the ramainder of their lives had ideas of how to do it, no one had a perfect solution. Even illegal solutions will not provide the same gaming experience.

We are now downloading more content (e.g., music, movies). We don't have physical media for this downloadable content and sometimes can't even create our own backups of it. Like video games, people are investing lots of money into content that they could lose in an instant.

We aren't teaching people how to manage their content. For example, MS Windows Explorer allows me to edit the properties of a file (e.g., photo) and add a description and metadata. People would see the value of that, especially with their digital photos, but they don't know that the option is there. Instead people have a growing mess of digital content on their computers.

Finally, we don't learn from our mistakes or problems. We have all lost files or almost lost files. Did that cause you to permanently change your ways? No. Interestingly, people who are trying to preserve their video games can be very methodical and protective of their gear. However, when it comes to our other files, we have a laissez faire attitude...and that is not good.

While reading the papers, I realized everything that I don't do to ensure that my files will not only last, but be useable by me and others in 50 years. (Yes, my goal is to have a very long life!) Now my task is to see if I can get my act in shape and consistently do things differently. Honestly, I know that the spirit is willing, but the rest of me may not have drive to follow through, just like many of my peers.

1 comment:

Shane White said...

Quite a lot has been done in the commercial world to make older video games available and playable. Sites like Good Old Games ( repackage old PC games into forms that can be played on modern PCs. Software is also available that can emulate console game platforms such as Nintendo or even old arcade devices.