“Hoarding is not preservation” and “Backing up data is not preservation”. Terrance Owens begins his book The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation with a checklist of what is specifically not digital preservation. The two checkpoints above are five and six of what isn’t digital preservation, respectively. These two really stuck out to me because I’m sure all of us have had a messy desktop or have had to help a relative organize a plethora of digital photos at some point. Technology truly makes it so easy to become a hoarder even when we may not be one off the computer. (A side note, but I see this on Steam. People will hoard hundreds if not thousands of games they will never even play! So sad.)
So, then what is digital preservation? I feel like this term can be utilized on two different levels. On the individual level, digital preservation is the willingness to catalogue and save aspects of your life that you deem important. From being on the internet since I was 10, I’ve seen a wide range of personal digital preservation. Some people rip, tag, and organize thousands of CDs on their computer in an attempt to fossilize their musical taste. Others upload and digitize their artwork on online art websites. And others take the time to help their aunt organize all those photos of their relatives at birthday parties. And then, digital preservation can refer to something bigger: An institution, a website, or some kind of group. I know I discussed my interest in Japanese visual novels in my Twine post. Well, there is currently a digital preservation project running under VNDB.org (“Visual Novel Database”) that is archiving every visual novel that has ever been created and published. This is being done by both Japanese people and foreign fans around the world. The database catalogues the covers, sample screenshots, genre, story plot, company, date published, age target, languages available, and where the game can be bought. This is an example of a digital preservation project that is being run and contributed to by a multitude of different people.
I believe that these kinds of digital preservation projects are important whether we’re talking about video games or a museum’s online catalogue of objects. It’s not a bad thing to have the world’s knowledge accessible at your fingertips. On the other hand, digital sustainability is another issue. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “once you put it on the internet, it’s there forever”. Now, while this may be true to some extent, that doesn’t mean the content is accessible forever. Many websites and pages from the early days of the internet are still there, sure, but it’s only because they have been archived in some fashion. This is something I’m quite cognizant of as an artist. I currently publish my web novel on the site Tapas. And Tapas is a popular site for web creators; but this week we saw another popular, long-running site (Smackjeeves) announce their closure at the end of this year… Basically, what I’m saying is preservation doesn’t always equal sustainability. (And make sure to back up your research, creative work, or whatever it is you do on your computer!)