To build a Digital humanities project is a long and complex process, that takes lots of effort and time...
You need to choose carefully the digital support for your data.
And this topic in not new.
If we see ancient data, we can see problems that can arise any time.
I want to specify 3 aspects:
Take a look at the messages from ancient Egyptian era:
When the message support is fragile, like papyrus, it has a lot of possibilities to disappear. If you choose hard support, such as stone, you will have better chances of preserving the message through the ages.
2 Data codification
Think in this case of Iberian language
We have lost the codes to understand the Iberian language, and we can not interpret it. What is the in these texts?. We cannot read it. We can see the letters, the ideograms, but we can not understand anything. We have lost the data codification.
Preservation of the message needs environmental conditions, we need libraries to store books and we need these libraries to have public access. We can not preserve the books with bad conditions (heat, humidity, dirt...), and private access. We need stable environmental conditions and public access.
We can translate these points to our digital era.
1 The support of your project
We have a problem with the preservation of digital data into a stable support , if you store your data in hard drives, you will have a problem to read it in 5 o 6 years. Hard drives are magnetic and have mechanical parts that can fail.
Copies in CDs or DVDs can be an alternative, they provide optic support that have longer preservation time, but it's never more than 20 years.
The only solution here is to make several copies of your data. If you choose a cloud server to store your data, make sure that you have backup of everything. Backup in the server, backup in other server or in local storage. Make different copies in different places of your project.
What is the tool that you could use to build your project? it can be easy to think of platforms like Google docs, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or other social networks. They are free but they are not really free.
The word free in English has two different meanings: free when the meaning is freedom, free with the meaning of free beers.
Why I say that it's free (we don't pay to use it) but it's not free (you lose your freedom), because when you upload your data to these platforms you are signing a contract that assigns the rights of your data to these companies. They can use your data in commercial trades. You have to think that these companies have a lucrative objective. If we put our memory or our history in these platforms, we will lose control of our data and we will depend on the objectives of these companies. For example: You cannot control if Twitter changes, closes or modifies your post. They can do it. They have the control of your data and your account.
And what happens with closed and patented technology? like Flash, Word, Excel, Photoshop, Freehand, Lotus 123, FileMaker, Oracle. The proprietary company can close or abandon this software and you data will be trapped in these formats. You could lose your data because you will not be able to read it.
And the video / image codecs? the same, try to use open standards, and don't go with the flow, only because all people around you use a closed format.
The solution here is use open software, use open standards and if you can, support the developer communities, because they need to continue developing open software.
Ok, you can use open software, but, nowadays we want to work in the Internet, we want to go online and reach wide audiences. Well, you need a long term environment for your project. You will need a stable server with stable support. Besides you need to choose a correct «license of use» for your data, if it's possible, open license or Creative Commons licenses.
How can we create an online project? You can rent a server on you own, but if you don't pay regularly, the service will be cut, and you will lose your data.
The solution could be to ask for space to universities, city councils, libraries, museums. You will need one stable space for your project.
Or another way could be to get financial support from the community that the project is about. If your project is about Black Lives Matter, talk to them to get funds for your server.
Your project needs a sustainable environment.
I'm going speak about an issue that I think most of you have discussed in other DH classes, but some of you are not so familiar with it. For those that are familiar with it and those that are not familiar with it, for everybody, I think it's important to think about it in terms of your memory projects.
When we listen to the term «the cloud» we think of a strange service with some strange intangible component, how does it work? where is my data stored?, some clouds are free, some have a fare...
Let off steam! the cloud is only a group of computers, permanently on and always online, with a common software doing one specific task. Manage data.
Computers like your desktop or laptop.
The key here is the words «always online». If you get a permanent IP address and power 24/7 for your laptop, with file services (like ftp, smb, http, ...), you will have a server similar to a cloud service.
The term "cloud" means that the data is not in one server in one specific computer, the data is shared with all computers in the cloud and it is accessible to the network. When you login to any cloud, you are connecting to one server that is (abelibol)available in the moment you're connecting, any server can handle your connection, have access to your data and do the same tasks that another does.
This sounds fine. We can connect to our data and get the information in any moment in any place. But we need to read the fine print.
There is a common idea that maybe you have heard, that says «If you're not paying for it, You are the product», if you are not paying for these services is because we can sell your data to others, to make money. Ok, I don't agree but I understand the logic behind it.
But thinking about my answer to Miriam last week and after talking with Arancha, my surprise was with Dropbox service, I read the license of use for DropBox, and they are selling the data of their costumers to Amazon, Google, etc.. all costumers, those not paying and those paying... all of them. And I read the same license of use in other similar clouds. The rule is totally broke, you are not save if you pay.
I don't use this kind of services, I run my own servers, and I have control of my data. but it scares me because if your project has personal and political implications, and you put your data in DropBox, (or other similar clouds) you have to know that your documents will be read, analysed, and sold to other companies or governments. In this way, I think that we can compromise the integrity of the people involve in these projects.
I can only think of, what kind of power we are sacrificing?
I don't have an answer here, I only want to say, if the price is your freedom or your privacy, say no. You have the power to decide.
I was seeing the clouds, but now I'm feeling the storm coming.