Not only for museums: Digital Preservation makes business sense

Posted on: September 16, 2014 by Celestino Guemes Seoane

Sometimes, when I comment to my colleagues about my interest in Digital Preservation, I get a condescending look, and I imagine them thinking: “Oh, here is another museum lover, worried about their grand-grand-grandsons getting his selfies” (Well, they’re almost right: I love museums, I worry about my digital heritage, but no, I don’t do selfies). And I feel sad, because I think that Digital Preservation is an important topic that receives less attention than it should get, and also that Digital Preservation can have interesting business value.

One of the best illustrations of the value of Digital Preservation comes from what, in my opinion, is one of the nicest cases of Science of Tech in 2014, the ISEE-3 Reboot Project (If you don’t know about it, go right now to this fantastic multimedia about it. We’ll wait, I promise.) Truly, a great example of use of modern tech and science there: crowdfunding, social collaboration, Software-Defined Radio (SDR) for “technoarcheological” purposes, creative reuse of an abandoned fast-food restaurant, and, above all, the passion of a global group of citizen scientists.

But this is also a hint of the problems of mishandling Digital Preservation in the realm of hardware. If NASA can’t communicate with an old satellite, what can we expect of all the devices (some with critical functions) that the IoT explosion is bringing into our cities? And that’s just one case, as there are many more. The state of reproducibility in Science, one of its basic pillars, is getting worse by the day. And Law is suffering a terrible case of “link-rot” that may have important consequences in courts.

In a world that is becoming more “data-oriented” in all its aspects (personal, societal, and economical), much more attention should be given to the topic of Digital Preservation. Yes, Digital Preservation is a very complex topic, with a “perverse” net of interactions between storage media, file formats, execution environments, metadata and semantics, and even the economics of doing it. And the adoption of Cloud and Big Data increase its “perversion” a lot.

However, the fact is that the economic consequences of a bad strategy for Digital Preservation can be big and for sure they will grow. But Digital Preservation shouldn’t be seen only as a burden, but also as an opportunity. Yes, Cloud and Big Data make it more complex, but they also may bring new solutions and business models. For example, Cloud-based Digital Preservation solutions, even if they sound a bit “oxymoronic” (the ephemeral Cloud helping preservation? Are you crazy?), may democratize the access to Digital Preservation to small institutions and individuals.

Additionally, there may be an important “side-effect” of putting more focus on Digital Preservation, and it is to bring a Long-Term Thinking mindset to our business and society. Not only for the interest of future generation, but also because our usual, short-term way of think, has important limitations in adapting to the demands of a complex, fragile world ahead of us.

I hope that all this may help to raise your interest in the topic of Digital Preservation. If so, we invite to read our Whitepaper from Scientific Community on the topic, “Digital Preservation in the Age of Cloud and Big Data” where we explore the topic in more detail. We would be more than happy if the next time someone comments you about Digital Preservation, you think less about museums and more about the future of your business.

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About Celestino Guemes Seoane
Solutions R&D and member of the Scientific Community
Celestino Güemes is in charge of Solutions R&D at Atos Worldgrid Spain, and is the lead architect of the Industrial Data Analytics for Smart Grid Applications platform, where he researches for innovative Big Data analytic solutions to help reinvent its clients' energy businesses. He is also member of Atos Scientific Community, in charge of “Digitalization of Energy” track. He firmly believes in a humanistic, positive view of technology as basic engine for the progress of society. Addicted to reading in any format, electronic or not, he’s an avid participant in social networks (@tguemes), and, as any good, old geek, he is essentially harmless.

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