Thursday, October 6, 2011

Digital Archives, Steve Jobs, knowledge integration

Lori's post started me thinking about the connections between Steve Jobs' legacy and digital archives.  Steve was all about integrating computing technology into the human experience. It seems to me that digital archivists play a vital role in an extension of that but with a twist --  integrating knowledge and digital information into the human experience.  Digital archives have been around for at least three decades (ICPSR is a shining example) and have managed their collections and have served their immediate clients, the tech savvy, very well.  Integrating that content through 'smart' or 'open' data is quite another matter, i.e. serving up the raw material that drives knowledge integration and evidence based decision making -- and in ways that you don't have to know what that means or how to code to do it.  

How do we build digital archives that support this vision?  Metadata.  Shared open formats.  Agreeing upon and using consistent tagging structures and putting in place the concepts behind the developing semantic web.  Building systems that capture content, context, metadata, policies, and identity during the creation and management of content -- the digital life cycle view.  Pushing for commitments and support for long term access.  Being aware that it takes a significant investment, and an ongoing one, to package and annotate content in ways that it can be used within a trusted and intelligent infrastructure, i.e. one in which content has its provenance and meaning ready at hand to support an emerging knowledge based computing experience.

We are faced with a complex bundle of things that are terribly challenging -- the ongoing and long term management, curation, policy development, and commitment to supporting and enabling integration of digital content.  And it starts here with the people who are building the repositories and the systems, who are collecting, enhancing and managing digital content and its long term accessibility and understandability.

As SJ said, keep it simple and get your thinking clean.

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