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Exploration of the Motivation for and Knowledge of Preservation Practices for Personal Digital Artifacts

Andrea Japzon and Denise Agosto

(Submission #34)


Summary

Libraries and other cultural institutions are very aware of the crisis in digital preservation and are taking steps to preserve our collective cultural heritage. In contrast, most individual consumers are much less aware of the impermanent state of their digital possessions. As a result, valuable representations of personal memories intended for future generations will be lost through ignorance and/or benign neglect and representations of family and social histories will be lost to what has been called the digital dark ages.

This research will explore user behavior as it relates to the preservation of personal digital objects. We seek to understand these dimensions of preservation and digital artifacts: value and digital objects, what steps are individuals taking toward preservation, and how preservation decisions are informed. Additionally, we are interested in understanding the tension between digital and physical artifacts as individuals remember the past and share memories. The theory of information horizons will be used to examine the relationship between the continuum of physical and digital artifacts. Qualitative research methods will be used to explore the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of individuals regarding digital preservation. In the first phase of this research, 12 semi-structured interviews will be conducted with Friends Groupsí members of a large urban public library. Analysis of the interview transcripts will lead to insights into the affective and cognitive issues surrounding personal digital artifacts in their own right and in comparison to personal physical artifacts. Further, the analysis will provide insight regarding the contexts in which individuals value information and how that sense of value impacts both the organization of and preservation of personal information. From this initial exploration of the information behaviors surrounding digital preservation, resulting observations will lead to the eventual formulation of a theory of personal information preservation behavior.

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