A Guide to Digitization

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  1. What can you capture, and not capture, when you digitize something?

Given that any object, sound, image, or text held in memory institutions can be digitized the possibilities seem endless and in the same time daunting the more one examines the material being digitized in light of the purpose of this endeavor. Digitization expands beyond simply preserving material as it offers items for a wider scholarly public to research. Through scanning, photographs, microfilms, and encoding essentially all material in institutes could have a surrogate made; digitization seems the new way to capture our history, culture, and art. However, when we digitize, “additional infrastructure (such as a database, a website front end, and an explanatory apparatus or additional teaching materials) is required in order to deliver the content successfully to users.” (Terras). In addition, Terras brings up the issue of what could or should be captured “Digitization programs aim to create consistent images of documents and artifacts which are fundamentally individual and inconsistent, presenting a variety of physical attributes and capture requirements to the digitiser. “ Which yields a concern of authenticity, purpose of use, and accessibility for items digitized. Therefore, Terras suggest that guidelines should be created for scanning, photographing, and cataloging material to ensure quality and a sort of uniformity in digitizing. Without a guideline for digitizing, a given material may lose certain elements after being digitized if the intended purpose was to focus on a limited aspect of the item. For instance, Conway discusses historical photographs and the way they may be enhanced through digitization by cropping, correcting fading, or adjusting high-density segments. In the same time, however, this process could eliminate crucial intended effects and alter the image.

  1. Which forms of digitization make the most sense for different types of items?

The Kitchen Activity illustrated well the digitization process most beneficial to different types of items. Digital images captured less of the categories examined. For example, color and size were captured through images, however, sound, texture, weight, and even color in some cases were captured more accurately with digital video. Thus, JPGs and GIFs are best for photographs, text, and maps. Images taken from multiple angles may also be satisfactory for pottery and statues for example. However, 3D imaging and Mp3 format may prove to be more accurate in creating surrogates of architecture or audio material.

  1. To what extent does working with digitized representations impact how we understand different kinds of items, and/or our ability to use them for different purposes?

“The Medium is the Message” declares Marlene Manoff  in “The Materiality of Digital Collections: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives”.   She explains that the differences between electronic and print media are creating different results in understanding and interpretation of texts and objects. Digital media allows the objects to be manipulated, rearranged, and combined in such ways that “new modes of textual creation may transform the nature and content. Manoff asserts that medium shapes content therefore we need to address the issues around how some information may not translate well between forms of media. In addition, if print translated into other formats looses meaning, there is a question about digital objects reproduced in print having similar fate.

Melanoff’s “Textual Scholarship” speaks to the physical aspects of a source. It is essential to consider that audio-visual aids and descriptions are helpful but not always practical or affordable for institutes. Moreover, they are transformative as seen in the example of the effort to have librarians see the content as abstract not part of the actual physical format. Then she illustrates the importance of the physical format through the EEBO database where the initial collection was not searchable therefore the accessibility of the texts has changed. This led to the creation of another version of the text, keyed in by hand, which scholars were able to read more easily and search as well. I think using digitized material yields some amount of research into the digital forms of its origin. Digitized representations of material may lead to new understanding or discoveries, however, it could overshadow details missed, left out, or altered in the process of digitization.

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