Thursday, December 28, 2006

Digitization 101 Year in Review: News

There is one ongoing news story that everyone is watching, whether they want to or not. Mass digitization and specifically Google. Yes, there are other mass digitization programs underway including the Internet Archive and programs in Europe. But it is Google that got the world to stand up and take notice. Google made digitization nearly a household word, although most people don't really understand it. It is Google that has given people the impression that everything is or well be online, and Google is working to try to make that fantasy a reality.

The idea of mass digitization is thrilling to many people because many projects/programs cannot dream that big, nor do they have the resources even if they could envision it. So the thought that someone can even think about pulling it off is mind-boggling.

Mass digitization, however, will do more than just digitize millions of items. Like early innovators in other areas, mass digitization programs are creating processes and procedures that should help other programs in the future. I emphasize the word "should" because currently must of the work is being done under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which means that the rest of us are learning nothing from them. But there is the possibility that these programs, like Google, will commercialize (or productize) their processes and procedures OR decide to place the information in the public domain, once they have gotten the needed value out of what they are doing.

So mass digitization news in 2006? In brief:
  • More mass digitization programs were announced.
  • Existing programs grew in size.
  • Major funding groups are getting involved and see these efforts worth supporting.
  • The fact that mass digitization is not just an American thing was reinforced as programs in other part of the world captured headlines.
And the impact on small digitization programs? Very little. The modest programs see Google, etc., as being on a different plain of existence, with different technologies, resources, and goals. And since there are NDAs in place, there isn't much information that filters out that might even inspire small digitization programs. What is needed is for missionaries from these mass digitization programs to tour the countryside and talk honestly about what they are doing (and how) so that others can be inspired. (Oh...that's right...there are non-disclosure agreements to prohibit that. Stupid me!)

How does the mass digitization movement intersect with the digital preservation movement? There is some thought that mass digitization is not thinking about preservation. Only those intimate with the program details would know for sure. Those of us "on the outside" hope that these mass digitization programs are thinking of everything, including preservation, and not doing what is often done (do the project, then think about how to preserve it).

In 2007, news of mass digitization programs will continue. I suspect that we already pay less attention to these news items because its no long novel. In 2007, it could be that this news will fade further into the background until something astonishing occurs.

Relevant Digitization 101 blog post here. (I'm using the BlogSpot search feature which may retrieve a few posts that are not "spot on.")

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