Evaluating Personal Archiving Strategies for Internet-based Information

Marshall, Catherine C.
McCown, Frank
Nelson, Michael L.
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Internet-based personal digital belongings present different vulnerabilities than locally stored materials. We use responses to a survey of people who have recovered lost websites, in combination with supplementary interviews, to paint a fuller picture of current curatorial strategies and practices. We examine the types of personal, topical, and commercial websites that respondents have lost and the reasons they have lost this potentially valuable material. We further explore what they have tried to recover and how the loss influences their subsequent practices. We found that curation of personal digital materials in online stores bears some striking similarities to the curation of similar materials stored locally in that study participants continue to archive personal assets by relying on a combination of benign neglect, sporadic backups, and unsystematic file replication. However, we have also identified issues specific to Internet-based material: how risk is spread by distributing the files among multiple servers and services; the circular reasoning participants use when they discuss the safety of their digital assets; and the types of online material that are particularly vulnerable to loss. The study reveals ways in which expectations of permanence and notification are violated and situations in which benign neglect has far greater consequences for the long-term fate of important digital assets.
Comment: 6 pages, 2 tables, to be published in the Proceedings of IS&T Archiving 2007, May 21-24 2007, Arlington, Virginia, USA
Computer Science - Digital Libraries, Computer Science - Computers and Society, Computer Science - Human-Computer Interaction