2017-04-17: Personal Digital Archiving 2017

On March 29-30, 2017 I attended Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2017 (#pda2017) held at Stanford University in sunny Palo Alto, California. Other members of the Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group (WS-DL) had previously attended this conference (see their 2013, 2012, and 2011 trip reports) and from their rave reviews of previous year's conferences, I was looking forward to it. I also just happened to be presenting and demoing the Web Archiving Integration Layer (WAIL) there as an added bonus.

Day 1

Day one started off at 9am with Gary Wolf giving the first keynote on Quantified Self Archives. Quantified Self Archives are comprised of data generated from health monitoring tools such as the FitBit or life blogging data which is used to gain in sites into your own life through data visualization. 
After the keynote was the first session Research Horizons moderated by WS-DL alumni, Yasmina Anwar.
The first talk of this session was Whose Life Is It, Anyway? Photos, Algorithms, and Memory (Nancy Van House, UC Berkeley). In the talk, Van House spoke on the effects of "faceless" algorithms on images and how they can distort the memory of the images they are applied to in many personal archives. Van House also spoke about how machine learning techniques when done in aggregate on images without context can have unintended consequences, especially when attempting to detect emotion. To demonstrate this, Van House showed a set of images tagged with the emotion of Joy one of which was a picture of an avatar from the online life simulator Second Life.

The second talk was Digital Workflow and Archiving in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Smiljana Antonijevic Ubois, Penn State University). Ubois spoke on the many ways scholars use non-traditional archives such as Dropbox or photos taken by their smartphones to preserve their work. One of the biggest points brought up in the talk by Ubois was that humanities and social sciences scholars still see the web as a resource rather than home to a digital archive.

The third talk was Mementos Mori: Saving the Legacy of Older Performers (Joan Jeffri, Research Center for Arts & Culture/The Actors Fund). In the talk, Jeffri spoke on the efforts being made to document and preserve the works of artists by the performing arts legacy project. The project found that one in five living artists in New York had no documentation of their work especially the older artists.
The final talk in the session was Exploring Personal Financial Information Management Among Young Adults (Robert Douglas Ferguson, McGill School of Information Studies). Douglas spoke on the passive preservation i.e usage of web portal and tools provided by financial services, done by young adults when it comes to managing their money and the need to consider long-term preservation of these materials.
Session two was Preserving & Serving PDA at Memory Institutions moderated by Glynn Edwards.
This session started off with Second-Generation Digital Archives: What We Learned from the Salman Rushdie Project (Dorothy Waugh and Elizabeth Russey Roke, Emory University). In 2010, Emory University announced the launch of the Salman Rushdie Digital Archives. This reading room kiosk offered researchers at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library the opportunity to explore born-digital material from one of four of Rushdie’s personal computers through dual access systems. One of the biggest lessons learned noted by Waugh was the need to document everything the software engineers do as their work is just as ephemeral as the born digital information they wished to preserve.
After Waugh was Composing an Archive: the personal digital archives of contemporary composers in New Zealand (Jessica Moran, National Library of New Zealand). In recent years the Library has acquired the digital archives of a number of prominent contemporary composers. Moran discussed the personal digital archiving practices of the composer, the composition of the archive, and the work of the digital archivists, in collaboration with curators, arrangement and description librarians, and audio-visual conservators, to collect, describe, and preserve this collection.
The final talk in session two was Learning from users of personal digital archives at the British Library (Rachel Foss, The British Library). Foss discussed the efforts made by the British Library to provide access to their digital collections that require emulation to viewed. Foss disscused that arhiving professionals also need to consider how we assist and educate our researchers to make use of born-digital collections implying understanding more about how they want to interrogate these collections as a resource.

Lunch happened. Session 3 Teaching PDA moderated by Charles Ransom.
Journalism Archive Management (JAM): Preparing journalism students to manage their personal digital assets and diffuse JAM best practices into the media industry (Dorothy Carner & Edward McCain, University of Missouri). In collaboration with MU Libraries and the school’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, a personal digital archive learning model was developed and deployed in order to prepare journalism-school students, faculty and staff for their ongoing information storage and access needs. The MU J-School has created a set of PDA best practices for journalists and branded it: Journalism Archive Management (JAM).
An archivist in the lab with a codebook: Using archival theory and “classic” detective skills to encourage reuse of personal data (Carly Dearborn, Purdue University Libraries). Dearborn designed a workshop inspired by the Society of Georgia Archivists’ personal digital archiving activities to introduced attendees to archival concepts and techniques which can be applied to familiarize researchers with new data structures.
Session 4: Emergent Technologies & PDA 1 moderated by Nicholas Taylor
Cogifo Ergo Sum: GifCities & Personal Archives on the Web (Maria Praetzellis & Jefferson Bailey, Internet Archive). In the talk Praetzellis and Bailey spoke on the gif archive GifCities created for the Internet Archives 20th anniversary which included a search interface. The GeoCities Animated GIF Search Engine, comprising over 4.6 million animated GIFs from the GeoCities web archive. Each GIF links back to the archived GeoCities web page upon which it was originally embedded. The search engine offers a novel, flabbergasting window into what is likely one of the largest aggregations of publicly-accessible archival personal documentary collections. It also provokes a reassessment of how we conceptualize personal archives as being both from the web (as historical encapsulations) and of the web (as networked recontextualization).
Comparison of Aggregate Tools for Archiving Social Media (Melody Condron). In the talk Condron spoke about many tools which could make archiving social media easier: Frostbox, If This Then That and digi.me. Of all the tools mentioned If This Then That provided the easiest way for its users to push social media into archives such Internet Archive or Webrecorder.

Video games collectors and archivists: how might private archives influence archival practices (Adam Lefloic Lebel, University of Montreal)

There were two different demonstration sessions the first was between session 4&5 and the second was at the end after session 6.
The demo for the Web Archiving Integration Layer (WAIL) consisted of two videos and myself talking to those who stopped by about the particular use cases of WAIL or answering any questoins they had about WAIL. The first is viewable below which is detailed feature walkthrough of WAIL and the second was showing off WAIL in action.
Session 5: Emergent Technologies & PDA 2 moderated by Henry Lowood

CiteTool: Leveraging Software Collections for Historical Research (Eric Kaltman, UC Santa Cruz) Kaltman spoke about how the tool is currently being used in a historical exploration of the computer game DOOM as a way to compare conditions across versions and to save key locations for future historical work. Since the tool provides links to saved locations, it is also possible to share states amongst researchers in collaborative environments. The links also function as an executable citation in cases where an argument about a program’s functionality is under discussion and would benefit from first-hand execution.

Applying technology of Scientific Open Data to Personal Closed Data (Jean-Yves Le Meur, CERN) Le Meur explained the methodology and technologies developed (partly at CERN) to preserve scientific data (like High Energy Physics) could be re-used for Personal restricted data. Existing initiatives to collect and preserve for very long term the personal data from individuals will first be reviewed, as well as a few examples of well established collective memory portals. Solutions implemented for Open data in HEP will then be compared, looking at the guiding principles and underlying technologies. Finally, a proposal to foster a solid shared platform for closed Personal Data Archive will be drafted on the model of Open Scientific Data Archives.

Personal Data and the Personal Archive (Chelsea Gunn, University of Pittsburgh) Gunn questioned if quantified self and lifelogging application are forms of personal data as a part of our personal archives, or do they constitute a form of ephemera, useful for the purposes of tracking progress toward a goal, but not of long-term interest?

Using Markdown for PDA Interoperability (Jay Datema, Stony Brook University). The only thing you can count on with born-digital projects is that you will have to migrate the content at some point. But having done digital library development for over a decade, I'd like to talk about simple text, and a problem that has a proven solution. Markdown is an intermediate step between text and HTML. If you're writing anything that requires an HTML link, its shortcuts are worth learning. Most web applications rely on the humble submit button. Once text goes in, it becomes part of a database backend. To extract it, it may require a set of database calls, or parsing a SQL file, or hoping that someone wrote a module to let you download what you entered.

Session 6 PDA The Arts moderated by Kate Tasker

From Virtual to Reality: Dissecting Jennifer Steinkamp’s Software-Based Installation (Shu-Wen Lin, New York University) Lin spoke about time-based and digital art combines media and technology that challenges traditional conservation practices while requiring dedicated care from working with Steinkamp’s animated installation Botanic that was exhibited in Times Square Arts: Midnight Moment. Lin's talk focused on the internal structure and relationship between the software used which was Maya, After Effects, scripts, and final deliverables. Lin also spoke about provide a risk assessment that will enable museum professionals as well as the artist herself to identify sustainability and compatibility of digital elements in order to build a documentation that can collect and preserve the whole spectrum of digital objects related to the piece.

The PDAs of Others: Completeness, Confidentiality, and Creepiness in the Archives of Living Subjects (Glen Worthey, Stanford University) The title and inspiration for Worthey's presentation came from the 2006 German film Das Leben der Anderen, which dramatized the covert monitoring of East Germans. Although the biography was "authorized", Worthy spoke on how the process of gathering and documenting materials often reveals tensions between completeness and a respect for privacy; between on-the-record and off-the-record conversations; between the personal and the professional; between the probing of important questions and voyeuristic-seeming observation of the subject's complex inner life.

RuschaView 2.0 (Stace Maple, Stanford University) In 1964, LA Painter, Ed Ruscha put a Nikon Camera in the back of his truck, drove up and down Sunset Strip and shot what would become a continuous panorama of "Every Building on the Sunset Strip" (1966). Maples talk highlighted both Ruscha's multi-decade project, as well as Maple's multi-month attempt to create the metadata required to reproduce something like Ruscha's "Every Building..." publication, in a digital context.

(Pete Schreiner, NCSU) Between 2003-2013 an associated group of independent rocks bands from Bloomington, Indiana shared a tour van. When the owner, a librarian, was preparing to move across the country in 2014, Pete Schreiner, band member and proto-librarian decided to preserve this esoteric collection of local music-related history. Subsequently, as time allowed, he created an online collection of the photographs using Omeka. This case study presents a guerrilla archiving project, issues encountered throughout the process, and attempts to find the balance between professional archiving principles and getting it done.

Day 2

Due to request of a presenter(s) who did not want their slides material recorded/show too others beyound the attendies no photos were taken
Session 7 Documenting Cultures Communities moderated by Michael Olson
(Anna Trammell, University of Illinois) Trammell's talk discussed the experience gained from forming relationships and building trust with the student organizations at the University of Illinois, capturing and processing their digital content, and utilizing these records in instruction and outreach.

(Jennifer Douglas, University of British Columbia) Online grieving and intimate archives: a cyberethnographic approach (Jennifer Douglas, University of British Columbia) Douglas presented a short paper discussing the archiving practices of the community of parents grieving stillborn children. In that paper, Douglas demonstrated how these communities functioned as aspirational archives, not only preserving the past, but creating a space in the world for their deceased children. Regarding the ethics of online research and archiving, Douglas' paper introduced the methodology of cyberethnography and explored its potential connections to the work of digital archivists.

(Barbara Jenkins, University of Oregon) In the talk Jenkins spoke on the development of an Afghanistan personal archives project which was created in 2012 and was able to expand its scope through a short sabbatical supported by the University of Oregon in 2016. The Afghanistan collection Jenkins was able to build combines over 4,000 slides, prints, negatives, letters, maps, oral histories, and primary documents.
Session 8 Narratives Biases Pda Social Justice moderated by Kim Christen

Andrea Pritchett, co-founder of Berkeley Copwatch, Robin Margolis, UCLA MLIS in Media Archives, and Ina Kelleher presented a proposed design for a digital archive aggregating different sources of documentation toward the goal of tracking individual officers. Copwatch chapters operate from a framework of citizen documentation of the police as a practice of community-driven accountability and de-escalation.

Stacy Wood, PhD candidate in Information Studies at UCLA, discussed the ways in which personal records and citizen documentation are embedded within techno-socio-political infrastructural arrangements and how society can reframe these technologies as mechanisms and narratives of resistance.
Session 9 PDA And Memory moderated by Wendy Hagenmaier

Interconnectedness: personal memory-making on YouTube (Leisa Gibbons, Kent State University) Gibbons spoke about the use of YouTube as a personal memory-making space and research questions concerning what conceptual, practical and ethical role institutions of memory have in online participatory spaces and how personal use of online technologies can be preserved as evidence.

(Sudheendra Hangal & Abhilasha Kumar, Ashoka University) This talk was about Cognitive Experiments with Life-Logs (CELL) and how it is a scalable new approach to measure recall of personally familiar names using computerized text-based analysis of email archives. Regression analyses revealed that accuracy in familiar name recall declined with the age of the email, but increased with greater frequency of interaction with the person. Based on those findings, Hangal and Kumar believe that CELL can be applied as an ecologically valid web-based measure to study name retrieval using existing digital life-logs among large populations.

(Frances Corry, University of Southern California) Corry spoke about the built-in feature on most smartphones, tablets, and computers today, and how these tool enables users to “photograph” what rests on the surface of their screens. These “photographs” rather screenshots were presented as a valuable tool worthy of further attention in digital archival contexts.
Session 10 Engaging Communities In PDA 1 moderated by Martin Gengenbach
Introducing a Mobile App for Uploading Family Treasures to Public Library Collections (Natalie Milbrodt, Queens Public Library) The Queens Public Library in New York City has developed a free mobile application for uploading scanned items, digital photos, oral history interviews and “wild sound” recordings of Queens neighborhoods for permanent safekeeping in the library’s archival collections. It allows families to add their personal histories to the larger historical narrative of their city and their country. The tool is part of the programmatic and technological offerings of the library’s Queens Memory program, whose mission is to capture contemporary history in Queens.

(Russell Martin, District of Columbia Public Library) The Memory Lab (Russell Martin, District of Columbia Public Library) The Memory Lab at District of Columbia Public Library is a do-it-yourself personal archiving space where members of the public can digitize outdated forms of media, such as VHS, VHS-C, mini DVs, audio cassettes, photos, slides, negatives and floppy disks. Martin's presentation consists of how the Memory Lab was developed by a fellow from the Library of Congress' National Digital Stewardship Residency, budget for the lab, equipment used and how it is put together, training for staff and the public, as well as success stories and lessons learned.

(Wendy Hagenmaier, Georgia Tech) Hagenmaier's presentation outlined the user research process of the retroTECH team to inform the design of the carts, offer an overview of the carts’ features and use cases, and reflected on where retroTECH’s personal digital archiving services are headed. retroTECH aims to inspire a cultural mindset that emphasizes the importance of personal archives, open access to digital heritage, and long-term thinking.

The Great Migration (Jasmyn Castro, Smithsonian NMAAHC) Castro presented the ongoing film preservation efforts at the Smithsonian for the African American community and how the museum invite visitors to bring their home movies into the museum and have them inspected and digitally scanned by NMAAHC staff.
Session 11 Engaging Communities In Pda 2 moderated by Mary Kidd
Citizen archive and extended MyData principles (Mikko Lampi, Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences) Lampi spoke about how Digitalia – Research Center on Digital Information Management – is developing a professional-quality digital archiving solution available for common people. The Citizen archive relies on an open-source platform allowing users to manage their personal data and ensure access to it on a long-term basis. MyData paradigm is connected with personal archiving by managing coherent descriptive metadata and access rights, while also ensuring privacy and usefulness.

Born Digital 2016: Collecting for the Future (Sarah Slade, State Library Victoria) Slade presented Born Digital 2016: collecting for the future a week-long national media and communications campaign to raise public awareness of digital archiving and preservation and why it matters to individuals, communities and organizations. The campaign successfully engaged traditional television and print media, and online news outlets, to increase public awareness of what digital archiving and preservation is and why it is important.

Whose History? (Katrina Vandeven, MLIS Candidate, University of Denver) Vandeven discussed the macro appraisal and documenting intersectionality within the Women's March on Washington Archives Project, where it went wrong, possible solutions to documenting intersectionality in activism, and introduced the Documenting Denver Activism Archives Project.
Bring Personal Digital Archiving 2017 to a close was Session 12 PDA Retrospect And Prospect Panel moderated by Cathy Marshall

Howard Besser, Clifford Lynch and Jeff Ubois discussed how early observers and practitioners of personal digital archiving will look back on the last decade, and forward to the next, covering changing social norms about what is saved, why, who can view it, and how; legal structures, intellectual property rights, and digital executorships; institutional practices, particularly in library and academic settings, but also in the form of new services to the public; market offerings from both established and emerging companies; and technological developments that will allow (or limit) the practice of personal archiving.
- John