Preserving Digital Culture

Th 12:00PM - 2:50PM / 411 Information Sciences Build / CRN 29263
This course explores both the production and the preservation of digital culture in the context of the United States. It begins by tracing the computerization of American life over the second half of the twentieth century, looking at how actors in the past understood digital technologies and their future possibilities in a wide variety of contexts. How did scientists, bankers, government workers, business managers, filmmakers, urban planners, librarians, archivists, and the like make sense of, and explain to themselves, the growing role of digital technologies within American society? How did technological changes in professional arenas spill into the domestic realm and change interpersonal relations? And, for our current-day purposes, what are the physical remains—whether hardware, software or media-based—that we can expect to have survived into the present from these entanglements with technology? As the United States underwent its transformation into an information-intensive economy, what are the persistent representations of information culture that remain for us to preserve today? What unique problems do these forms and formats present to archivists and related information professionals? What are the tools that information professionals use to maintain digital objects over the long term?
With these questions as our starting point, this course offers a historical and theoretical framework for understanding the preservation of digital culture, including both digitized and born-digital materials. As our exploration moves toward the present day, we encounter contemporary information management problems and solutions—solutions that must also take into consideration the technological shifts that took place over the previous seventy years. Mastering the latest research on the preservation problems surrounding digital technology is the goal of the course. Along the way, this course tackles the ongoing debates focused on the related but distinct concepts of preservation, curation, maintenance, and stewardship. 

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Alison Langmead

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Course Category

Category B: Disciplines and Intellectual Movements

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