Kuidas paberi kõrval hakati bitte ja baite säilitama? Digitaalse info säilitamise areng [Abstract: How to start preserving bits and bytes in addition to paper? Development of preserving digital information]


  • Kurmo Konsa




Digital communication is the foundation of the contemporary social information system. One of the functions of social information systems is the preservation of information and guaranteeing its existence and usability. Preservation could hereby be defined as a function that provides continuance to the information system. On the one hand, preservation of digitally presented information is related to technological developments, however, on the other hand, it also relates to social and cultural processes. Whereas the technical aspect of preservation has been widely dealt with, then its relation to wider social processes has been neglected. Also, parallels can be drawn between digital preservations and preservation of other objects. First, the focus was on objects carrying digital information and their preservability. Initially there were also doubts regarding the preservation of information presented in a new way. Many preservation specialists were convinced up to the mid-1970s that electronic information was suitable for preservation only if its content had been saved in paper or microfilm. Information establishments are always quite conservatively-minded about new mediums and proceed from previously established practices when preserving them. The situation was different in the establishments which dealt with computer-readable information carriers, i.e. in data archives As data archives only focused on collecting, processing and preserving computerreadable information, then it was there where corresponding information systems and the practices for using them developed. It is a good example of how a new technology is implemented faster and without any Principel contradictions in the systems where it is founded from the scratch. The knowledge and experience gathered in data archives did not start to Spreed until the 1990s. At the beginning of the 1980s, it became clear that the physical life span of data carriers is a rather insignificant factor from the point of view of preserving digital information. What was perceived as the main problem, however, was ensuring the availability of devices needed to use the data carriers. In addition to the aging of technical devices, the existenceof different data search formats and their relatively fast alteration were emphasised. It was understood that information system should be teated as a whole and it needed to be made sure from which parts of the system digital data should be collected from and preserved. In this context, it was even discussed as “liberation from the tyranny of the medium”; i.e. in preservation, what becomes the focus is the information itself, not its different physical carriers. It is a very significant conceptual shift in the entire field of preservation. It is recognised that information is related to the functioning of all information systems, it can be found in all systems, and digital information is considerably less connected to its specific physical carrier, in comparison with the so-called classical information carriers, such as books, documents, photos, etc. In case of digital information objects, the relation between the carrier (medium) and information itself is notably more ephemeral. Information presented in digital format is dependent on an entire chain of encoding and decoding stages and the information presented to a person is recreated at the moment of its presentation. Digital computing and communication technologies have developed rapidly and for the time being, problems related to preserving information have not played an important role in this development. There are several institutions in the society engaged in creating, managing and using digital information: libraries, archives, museums, hardware and software manufacturers, research institutions, government institutions etc. All these establishments have very different specific interests and fields of specialty, which makes it very difficult to match and coordinate them. At the same time, the preservation of digital information relevant for the society is dependent on the information system which is formed in the course of cooperation between different institutions and individuals. KEYWORDS: information systems, digital information, digital preservation, history of digital preservation.


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Author Biography

Kurmo Konsa

(b. 1965) is Associate Professor at the Department of Archival Studies at the University of Tartu, and Professor of Conservation at Tartu Art College. Correspondence: Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu, Estonia. E-mail: Kurmo.Konsa@ut.ee




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