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The Fragility of Digital Media Content: On Preservation and Loss: Sketching the Pilgrimage of Future Scholars to Recover Our Digital Vellum

Author:

Maranke Wieringa

About Maranke

Maranke Wieringa (1992) is a research master student of the Media & Performance program at Utrecht University, and a researcher at Utrecht Data School. She specializes in software studies and data analysis. Wieringa holds a BA in cultural studies from Radboud University, and participated in the Radboud Honours Academy. 

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Abstract

Preservation of media content is increasingly problematic with the rise of digital media. While it seems that we can backup everything in clouds, on USB sticks or external hard drives, the heart of the matter is that digital content degrades. Whereas non-digital media such as paper degrade slowly, a single corrupted bit can irrevocably harm a digital file. Digital media are thus on constant life-support. This paper is meant as an thought exercise to chart possible problems that future scholars might encounter when scavenging the digital archives. In particular, a number of hindrances are discussed: the lack of central institutions that take on the task of archiving content, inadequate modes of archiving, obsolescence, instability, and the compromise of the digital artifact’s integrity. It seems that the future of preserving our contemporary cultural artifacts is rather bleak, yet some preservation strategies may give a ray of hope. 

How to Cite: Wieringa, M., 2017. The Fragility of Digital Media Content: On Preservation and Loss: Sketching the Pilgrimage of Future Scholars to Recover Our Digital Vellum. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 2(2), pp.27–38.
Published on 01 Sep 2017.
Peer Reviewed

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