Read When a Presidential Library Is Digital by Dan CohenDan Cohen (dancohen.org)
I’ve got a new piece over at The Atlantic on Barack Obama’s prospective presidential library, which will be digital rather than physical. This has caused some consternation. We need to realize, however, that the Obama library is already largely digital: The vast majority of the record his presid...
I love the perspective given here, and in the article, of how important a digital library might be.

The means and methods of digital preservation also become an interesting test case for this particular presidency because so much of it was born digitally. I’m curious what the overlaps are for those working in the archival research space? In fact, I know that groups like the Reynolds Journalism Institute have been hosting conferences like Dodging the Memory Hole which are working at preserving born digital news and I suspect there’s a huge overlap with what digital libraries like this one are doing. I have to think Dan would make an interesting keynote speaker if there were another Dodging the Memory Hole conference in the near future.

Given my technological background, I’m less reticent than some detractors of digital libraries, but this article reminds me of some of the structural differences in this particular library from an executive and curatorial perspective. Some of these were well laid out in an episode of On the Media which I listened to recently. I’d be curious to hear what Dan thinks of this aspect of the curatorial design, particularly given the differences a primarily digital archive might have. For example, who builds the search interface? Who builds the API for such an archive and how might it be designed to potentially limit access of some portions of the data? Design choices may potentially make it easier for researchers, but given the current and some past administrations, what could happen if curators were less than ideal? What happens with changes in technology? What about digital rot or even link rot? Who chooses formats? Will they be standardized somehow? What prevents pieces from being digitally tampered with? When those who win get to write the history, what prevents those in the future from digitally rewriting the narrative? There’s lots to consider here.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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