Explaining the Digital Dilemma
Reducing to digital form everything written and published, and even said and thought, is surely going to produce as many cloud-stored ones and zeroes as there are grains of sand (ballpark estimate, only).
For the rest of us, an essential aid in the monumental change in human affairs represented by gazillion-byte digitization will be generous experts who help us swallow the changes in bite-sized bits.
One such is Ruta Abolins, the director of Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia’s Russell Special Collections Library. She is now contributing a regular column, “The Digital Treadmill”, to Vocer (pronounced [vo kər ː]), a German online media magazine based in Hamburg and Munich and funded entirely with donations and endowments.
Its publisher is the non-profit Association for Media and Journalism Criticism (VfMJ), whose mission is to highlight the media and journalistic criticism of younger writers and practitioners.
Arbolins has been involved with moving image and sound preservation since she was in college. She is a former board member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. She recently put together an exhibit on media collections for a new building dedicated to preserving cultural heritage.
Her column on “the digital treadmill” takes its name from The Digital Dilemma II, a 2007 report from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scences that outlined concerns about the longevity of Hollywood studios’ digital motion-picture materials, as well as those of large commercial, scientific, and government organizations. It found a key problem: organizations don’t have an operationally and economically sustainable means to do that.
In her first column, Arbolins begins with an admission, not one she alone would have to make: “So much of what I knew or what I thought I knew about moving image archiving and the preservation of film and video has changed since 1990 when I got my first job in a film archive.”
She explains: “The faster technology changes, the more quickly we must develop preservation strategies that anticipate and adapt to these changes. And everything is sped up even further because the preservation of digital data is on the fast track.”