Blog Post

Performative Limits of Digitization

 

Image from amazon.com

Caption: Image from amazon.com

I came across a book. I’ve since played with the book, looked through it, learned about it, and digitally cut bits and pieces of it up and put them back together again as collages. I realized in speaking to others about this book, that if this book was digitized in its entirety, if in the digital format it could still be recognized as a book, or, as individual photographs, it would lose too much. We would lose too much.

The book is The Secret Museum of Anthropology (The Secret Museum). It was a privately printed book created by the American Anthropological Association in the 1930s. It is authorless and not officially recorded (the inside cover says “privately printed”). There are no marks on it indicating it was ever catalogued. It never received wide circulation, something that is built into its design as a privately published book. Despite being in an area with a plethora of Universities, there is no library around here that has it. But I do. I was able to purchase a used copy online. I know had I found this book in a library, my thoughts on it might be a little bit different. I did not though. Acquiring the book was unique experience in and of itself that helped me frame where my thoughts are headed. Thumbing through the book changed some of my thoughts on digitization.

The book is a collection of photographs that were pirated from a German book titled Das weib bei den naturvolkern : eine kulturgeschichte der primitiven frau (Primitiven frau), published in 1928. The rough translation from Google Translate is “The female in aboriginal peoples: a cultural history of the primitive woman”. Primitiven frau was digitized and is available through the Internet Archive project. The feeling of the two books, even as they contain the same photographs is completely different. The Secret Museum is a carefully edited version of the Primitiven frau, with the photographs chosen for their erotic nature. This editorial liberty limits the ability to look at the book as though it is an anthropological work rather than a pornographic one. That doesn’t mean whoever was responsible for putting this private collection together didn’t try to play as though it were real scientific anthropology. The part of the book I present/perform is the part that does just that. Part of the interactive installation piece I created is a video which can be seen below. It features a series of simple line drawings from the middle of The Secret Museum that attempt to catalog and number different types of breasts found in the photographs of the women whose photographs grace the pages of the book:

 

 

When I first received The Secret Museum, the image of the “different types of female breasts and nipple formations” made me laugh, not because it was funny, but because it made me say “of course”. The display of these breasts was the sole purpose of this book. Once I confirmed the source of the photographs, Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein, and looked up his books only to find that Primitiven frau, the book that contained these photographs originally was digitized, I was shocked. I saw flesh and bones and words instead of just flesh and crude drawings of flesh. In fact, there are more pages of words in Primitiven frau than there are of photographs and x-rays. The drawing included in The Secret Museum, appears on page 61 of Primitiven frau in a section that is 17 pages of analysis where breasts are discussed.

Entwicklung und Grundformen der weiblichen Brust

Caption: Entwicklung und Grundformen der weiblichen Brust (Development and basic forms of the female breast.), Primitiven frau, p. 61

Instead of seeing this drawing as a numbered series that reduces the women in the book to only the drawings themselves, they exist in a larger context. While the context is problematic, at best, we are able to see the intent of Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein. Rather than simply creating a book of pornographic imagery, he did attempt to create an anthropological work on “primitive women”. Furthermore, though they are few, in addition to the photographs of nude and partially nude women Primitiven frau contains drawings of jewelry and women participating various acts, and other cultural items, such as songs with music and lyrics. There is even a photograph with fully clothed women. Additionally, the book contains an index. The Secret Museum renders the women anonymous in a way that they can never be confronted as though they existed. The index in Primitiven frau prevents this from happening, because at the very least, we know where the women we are seeing existed. Despite the problematic nature of the book, it has a wealth of information to offer us, even as we look to day in the post-post colonial age.

If The Secret Museum were to be digitized, we would lose the covertness of its creation. For me, that is the most important thing the book has to offer. The seediness of its production and purpose would be lost if the book was publicly and freely accessible. The act of having to search for the book, and find a “deal” on it, or having the book presented with the caveat that it is rare and was never published for a wide audience, the ability to touch and feel the book, to smell and see the pages and random ink colors, creates a performative experience with the book that digitization does not have. Making the book digital would erase so much of what this book does. It would allow us to lose the idea that the original audience that this book was designed for will remain forever hidden. Further, the ability to see the physical product against the digital version of what it was pirated from, on a screen where we can see page upon page of text, creates an interesting conversation around what happens when we lose text. I think seeing the physical book coupled with the digital text truly illustrates some of the issues digitization causes for certain artifacts.

It isn’t that I don’t want people to see The Secret Museum. To the contrary, the more people who can experience the book, the better we can understand, especially in the academy, whose bodies our disciplines were built upon and to what ends. It's just that I want people to do more than see the book. I want them to experience the book. When looking through the screen at a digital version of a book, or a photo, I find it is too easy to forget that we are seeing something real that existed in a larger context that affected and affects different people differently. To lose the bodies first through a photograph and then through the digitization of a book we lose too much. The material experience of a book that can be taken out of a little bag, the method I choose to unveil the book in my installation performance, takes away the ability to show and remember how easily books like this were, and continue to be, hidden. I fear that in this digital culture of openness and access we forget that even today, there is so much that remains out of reach. I would like to stress that I do not think the limits of digitization are a bad thing. In fact, I think they are wonderful things that open up new possibilities. The Digital's tendency to reduce the experience of certain things is the space where I like to play. It is the space that is inherently made of breaks and new paths, breaks and paths that I am exploring in my own dissertation work. Because this is the space of my work though, I think it is important to realize and remember that there are places where digitization cannot translate, where the losses created by access and openess are too great.

x-posted from my blog, but I would love to have a conversation with other scholars so I thought I'd share it here as well. Sorry about the formatting!

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25 comments

I do agree with you when you comment on the loss of experince when it comes to digitization of artifacts, but you have to look at it from another perspective, the digitization of artfacts allows for history to not be lost, also museums are able to display more of what they have behind the scenes without the fear of it being broken or distroyed by the environment of being exposed to while on display, also the storage of the artifacts take up less room if it is on a hard drive. I do agree with the fact that you lose an experience when you are faced with a digital screen where you can't see, feel, smell or aborb the atmosphere that surrounds the artifact this I do believe to be an important part of the museum experience.

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I love reading since I was very young, the books smell is amazing to me, I would like to go to library to borrow the books, as you said, the smell, feel, and environment which are important to the reader same as the books, even now, I still think the real book is real good to me. However, we must face this reality, the Digitization Books is good for our fast life, and it is like fast food, cheaper and easier, with the further acceleration of the digitization process, there are a lot of free digital resources of ancient books on the internet. So, if we want read the Digitization Books we can just turn on the laptop, move your fingers, even you can hear the sound of the pages, and student will be like this way to read very much, it is better than go to library, in library, may be need queued to get the book that they wants, and do not forget, first thing is make sure that book still there, it will like live in C19th.

 

In short, Is there really no an excellent "best of both worlds" solution? 

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I can see where both of you are coming from, I am a self-proclaimed book worm who always has my nose in a book, I love the feel, smell and weight of each book I read and being able to see how far away I am from the end. I do think that the digitization of books you lose that charm and pull to enjoy the book and absorb all its information, but as Cathy Colebourn and Mark Quanter both explained it is extremely hard to keep a physical book from disinterating in conditions that are not favourable to it, they have to be kept at a certain tempurature, with a certain percentage of humidity amnd some book even have to hard the right kind of light used when they are out of storage, and it seems like a labourious process to keep up when you could scan, format and reproduce an entire book on a hard drive where anyone can enjoy it and it does not have to be hidden in the back room with only photos of it to be displayed; it seems like a cheaper more economical process for a museum to go through and they would not have to worry about the amount of strorgae they have nor will have have to pick and choose which books they want to keep. I completely agree with Rhiannon if the book or artifact is placed and explained in the right context surrounded by objects that also enhance the meaning behind the information that is on display the human imagination will take on what is being shown through all aspects of the exhibit. Any historian realises that if they are wanting to know more about an object (in this case a book) they are going to have to indluge in research, this is the fundamental function of the subject is, you will always have to, too be able to understand what the meaning is behind the book and how it could have been used when it was first published. I do think that if information is placed on the internet it allows for a community to form around the use of the information and someone would be able to recognise and identify the women who were included in the book, this I think would add so much personal value to the artifact.

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I agree that the digitization of books does indeed wash away the context that is all so important to historical artifacts. But it is much better to save some form of the information inside the pages than to leave it for the ravages of time or indeed away from the public eye. We are all creatures of imagination and though we could never fully reproduce the context in our minds eye we can go some steps towards knowing how we are supposed to interpret a text. Of course the digitisation of books does not guarantee their survival, some things only exist in digital forms on a single server and if that crashes as servers are wont to do we lose that piece of history. Also the way digital platforms condense information and arguably destroy the physicality of the object poses interesting questions for how historians should utilise the medium moving forward. The digital book is by no means the same as the book and though it does save some form of the original it is far from satisfactory. What might be some solutions for these short-comings?

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While I agree with you that there is a loss of meaning for an object when it is not possible to interact in person, I think if the object is explained and placed in the right context the nature of the artefact can still be understood. If ‘The Secret Museum’ was digitised, placed on a hard drive somewhere and left unlabelled, and the original destroyed, the meaning would be lost. Without research into the background of its publication, how would you know that the images within were taken from another collection? This is where digitisation would benefit this item; it would be a simple task to place digitised copies of these books online next to each other. This would make it possible to view both collections as separate entities, as well as compare them. It is always a more in depth experience to witness something in person, but with digitisation there the opportunity for more people to interact with the object. This may be a bit of a generalisation, but would it not add to the value of the object if perhaps someone saw an online version of the book and could identify the women in the photographs?

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The 'physical' aspect to a book is something that currently and will most likely continue to exist. I personally don't see the future of printed books disappearing anytime soon. However, you raise some interesting points. I do agree that we can potentially lose 'too much' if a book becomes digitised and the physical copy ceases to exist. As a person who prefers to read books in phycisal form, I find the possibility of not being able to read a physical book somewhat alarming. I agree with you and also retierate what Lauren has already touched on, as that we don't have the same experience with reading a book online as opposed to being able to physically touch and feel it. After all, this experience is what most, if not all, who pick up a book and decide to read it want to gain for themselves. Reading through a computer screen is simply not the same as becoming immersed in what the book can offer us. 

As Lauren has pointed out, the possibilities of digitising objects or 'books' is in fact, a positive aspect of what digital tools can offer historians. I think this is an important part of what digitising can be useful for preserving the history, so that is can be continued to be enjoyed and shared long after the 'physical' has decayed. As historians that's what we are foccusing to do; to document and preserve information, objects and artefacts so that the knowledge they possess is not lost. Yet, I do agree with Joshua, in which the digital copy of any digitised material is not always set in stone; the internet and technology is an unstable thing and it can be as easy to lose an electronically digitised and preserved book or artefact, as it is to lose one through age and decay. 

 

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Ilana i do agree with you in the fact that the intrenet is an unreliable media that does after a while seems to just delete what it believes to be not used unless someone is looking after the data and making sure that the technology is maintianed and updated to ensure the survival of the data. this I do think is a rather labourious and something that could be made easier but untill the new generation technology comes to be this is the problem that will be faced. Mark Quanter who did a guest lecture also brough to light the fact that "old" technology is being obsolete such as (VCR, Projector slides etc) because the old technology is being left behind so in relaity we are already losing historical data on a lot of things because there is no technology that allows for the old technology to be uploaded onto the new technology. The thing that we need to be focusing on is the fact that there needs to be a stable form of media that will not decay, or become obsolete or need updating all the time to ensure that it is keeping up with the Technology race that seems to be happening around us, then we will concur the problem of loss of history and artifacts. I love history books as it allows us to look at history from one perspective of what has or had happened, and this book "The Secret Museum of Anthropology" allows us to see how people intrepreted the shape of women's breasts and what they told them about thier lives, diet and how they were percieved through thier own society, this advantage is not lost when books are digitised, it just makes it harder to read, as many screens are not senestive to eyes and how they work when they at looking at it, a book is much softer on eyes as it is not on a pure white background which is a harsh colour. Computer screens need to have a setting that allows the user to put it onto a book theme that mimics the pages of a book, this I think will make reading books online so much easier and more enjoyable.

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Kan, I personally do not think that there is a "best of both worlds" situation as there will always be people who want to keep a hold of the 'old ways' and not losing the physical book. Yes computer programs are amazing in the fact that you are able to make the book come to life on the computer screen, Technology is a forever moving creature that seems to be able to mold and fold itself into every little cranny of our possible thinking which is amazing. So hopefully ion the very near future there will be a technology that allows for the perservation of artefacts and books in a stable environment that will be avaliable to us forever.

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Lauren , Thanks for you responded to me, and I think this is really interesting issue about if we can build a good way to get “best of both worlds" situation or not, and I am a “tradition old style” I think, like I said, I like the real book smell and feeling. but I also love the new things very much, I got face book on my phone, I play online game with my friend, I discuses my point with you by this wed page, of course I love those by the technology and digital tools. However, this was not real development, It doesn't represent we can trust this way totally as long as we can. As you said, Technology is a forever moving creature, in other words, it is also unstable, unsafe, like the book online, may be you can read here today gone tomorrow. So, How to make a save and stable situation on line that is big question I think.

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Kan, I personally do not think that there is a "best of both worlds" situation as there will always be people who want to keep a hold of the 'old ways' and not losing the physical book. Yes computer programs are amazing in the fact that you are able to make the book come to life on the computer screen, Technology is a forever moving creature that seems to be able to mold and fold itself into every little cranny of our possible thinking which is amazing. So hopefully ion the very near future there will be a technology that allows for the perservation of artefacts and books in a stable environment that will be avaliable to us forever.

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Lauren, Thanks give me feedback, and that question it is similar with “the Museums and Digital Tools”, people have so many books, phones, videos, even sculptor and painting,  that is huge  quantity, the exact quantity cannot be determined at present. So how do we can save them on line, that will be need a virtual disk that is large enough online, and how about the high cost we need pay for that. May be keep old way to read also can keep a mood of humanity, simplicity and sincerity, not too bad choose.

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 Reading the blog, 'Does the artefact matter? http://inalloftheland.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/does-the-artefact-matter/ offered some new insights into the object itself, and it's relevance to learning about it.  The blog highlights that because we have museum descriptions, experiences of the object and academic understanding and context of it, is it really that important to possess the actual object. The blog also focuses on how we generally have a 'fetish' toward an object, rather than actually experiencing it's place in an historical context.  

So do we even need the object to learn history? This blog defintley made it hard for me to have a straight up answer regarding this question. Sure we can have all the knowledge we could want about a particular image, but the appreciation and the acknowledgment of the particular object is gone. Of course, the object itself does not have a voice, as the blog explains, and a story is only developed when a researcher, historian finds out enough about it, for it to actually gain a voice and essentially a place in an historical context.  

Yes, because of the descriptions we have, and the general understandings that we have regarding objects, in hindsight, the actual object does seem irrelvant; we don't actually have to physically touch or even see an object to be able to learn about it. However, I think that because we all interpret things differently in regards to culture, religion, beliefs, and so on, then we are all going to take on different interpretations and judgments of the same object. Without being able to see, or touch or feel an object we are only able to learn about it and interpret it through the understandings of someone else and primarily, through a screen. 

Don't get me wrong, I do think that digitising objects is a great thing in order for preserving knowledge, but without the actual object existing, I think that the whole point of history of aquring these objects to preserve for history purposes is effectivley lost.  

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That artefacts can be decried as unhelpful or of no use for history is a scary statement and I am glad to see you weren't completely won over by their argument. It is true that many people may not see the proper context when viewing an object but objects are important in connecting history to a tangible reality. If this were not the case then we would be looking at an incredible shift in history that I'm not quite sure would be positive. So in this way I am going back on what I said earlier about using the imagination to place history in a reality. I do still think that digitization is mostly for the good, but that historians would be willing to discard artefacts as important in informing people of not only what the past looked like but indeed felt like.

In this online article:

http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/idealabs/ap/essays/looking.htm Looking at Artefacts Thinking About History, they make the point that the ambiguity of some artefacts is a useful tool in promoting multe faceted views and creating different meanings for history. It promotes healthy discussion. Also the artefact shows first hand where the history comes from; for without the physical object no one would ever have anything to go off.

Now this is all being digitized I believe the physical should retain its importance more so. This is not to say that digitization is bad or anything (though is does have restrictions as I have stated) but it definitely should not completely replace the physical.

The point that was made about the life span of a digital file is very relevant. Digital media is changing so fast and with that files actually have smaller and smaller shelf life as the systems that they were made for are becoming more and more obsolete. In a way we need a file type that is independant of the system.

I'll end this post with a question could anything digital truly replace the physical?

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I agree with you, Joshua, I think that potentially having history without the object to be a troubling thought.  I like the article that you provided, and indeed, as the article states, "to understand the past, we also have to understand the artifacts of the past".  The article also states, and what I also stated in my previous post, is that when an artifact is used it can "open up new interpretations and different points of view". Without an artifact, the possibilities of further understandings of the past is lost.  

To answer your question, I would say, no; nothing digital can truly replace the physical. I do think, and agree that digitsing history and objects is important for preservation purposes, but I feel that if the object itself becomes obsolete, what do we have to prove for the past? How do we know what we are being told is truth?

In short, I just don't think that the digital should take the place of the physical. And as you stated, the physical object itself is where we first create understandings and make interpretations in the first place; without it, we as historians, would have nothing to go off. History is about appreciating an object and being able to understand and appreciate it's own history within a specific historical context.  

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Joshua,

Thank for your point, that is great one, very important and interesting issue, I think theanything digital cannot truly replace the physicalof course, the physical world is still imporant.maybe some people will say, yes, because that is just different way to put the information and words, the online book more easy and fast to get it, and maybe free pay, there are so many advantages look like. But I do not think so, because the book not just for read, that also filled with a mood of humanity, simplicity and sincerity. 

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Kan, Totally agree with you there I think that a book has much more to offer than JUST words, information and reading. What can be offered digitally and physically are two different things and I would argue have two different purposes in this day and age. Digitization can offer storage and preservation aswel as accessability but a physical book can offer you a 'depth' of information not possible in digital format.

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Skye W, yes, thanks agree with me, i try to thinking after 20 years or 40 years, what the future is going to look like in digital era, I am really interesting in that question, I am so curiosity. In the future, how the digital tools works, with 3D glass, or laser and light. there are will be have the answer for us, when the people do not give up the really real books, and how dose it work with the digital! i wish i can see!

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Joshua: Thank for your point, that is great one, very important and interesting issue, I think theanything digital cannot truly replace the physical of course, maybe some people will say, yes, because that is just different way to put the information and words, the online book more easy and fast to get it, and maybe free pay, there are so many advantages look like. But I do not think so, because the book not just for read, that also filled with a mood of humanity, simplicity and sincerity, permeated by the author's academic and creative consciousness, when you have a real book, you can feel the author's mind and story on the paper, and when you want to read a same book many years later, you also can have the memory about the book as new and you at that time! that is not come from the screen, not for  virtual world online!

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In a nutshell I am a bit of a purist. I can sympathise with Jade's assertions about the realms and places that digitization cannot translate into. Reading into some of the other posts I can see that to some extent most people have a soft spot for the tangible written word.

No-one is denying the truth of digitizations superiority in terms of cost, accessibility and the ability to preserve history. This is a given and is an advantage to us in this day and age. Think of the amount of books and sources lost during periods of War over the centuries. The burning of the library in Alexandria or the book burnings in Germay during WWII. If we had hard-drives and computers then we would have been able to save precious important pieces of historical information.

I like Illana's point about the importance of still having a physical object and it not completely being thrown out as obsolete in the face of its digital counterpart. 

I agree mostly with Dee-Anne's points about the strengths of digitization - but I disagree with the point about value. Value itself depends on the person. It depends on perspective and whose consuming it for what purposes. A book such as this one can arguably never be transfered in its entirety. Yes the words, pictures and 'guts' of it can be reproduced in the digital form but you can loose the other aspects of it that make it a valuable source.

Unless you scan every space, you'll never see the dog earred pages from a previous owner. You'll never see the annotations or lines made by a scholar looking for particular gems of information. You won't smell the remains of smoke eminating from the pages that whisipers where it has come from. You won't feel the indents from the print press on the pages or the mistake in printing that singles the copy out from others.

In terms of linear information - yes digitization is king in this respect it can preserve the 'on the face' information and allow the masses to consume it.  

I admit I have that emotional attachment that Dee-Anne mentions but in my eyes the 'value' of a book as a source goes beyond the raw value of the informatin contained inside of it.

 

"The Digital's tendency to reduce the experience of certain things is the space where I like to play. It is the space that is inherently made of breaks and new paths, breaks and paths that I am exploring in my own dissertation work.

Because this is the space of my work though, I think it is important to realize and remember that there are places where digitization cannot translate, where the losses created by access and openess are too great."

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Joshua and Ilana you both make relevant points and also the articles you both provided, gave some very intresting insight into how other people view physical artifacts and digital preservation. Ilana I agree with you when you pointed out the if the object becomes obsolete we lose ineffect a connection to the past as we cannot physically show what was an important everyday item and what it was used for if we cannot see the object and it is a great point to say how do we know if the truth is being told, I personally think that if there were no pictures to backup something that was said in a book or an explanantion it would increase the amount of time that would be spent on research to find what the person was talking about, so being able to digitize artifacts would enable a sense of truth to be installed into what was being said in a history book.

BUT with everything there are problems that would arise from photos that could be used within this context, it has been shown how easy it is to forge a photo with all the programs that have been made for photographers use and as always people abuse these programs for what I would call nasty ends, there always has to be some way of verifying what you see within a digital context, that it is true and not made up, like we do as historians, we reference everything, include footnotes and biographies so that anyone who doubts what is being said can follow the same paper trail we did to be able to say what we included.

Enabling true and accurate information to be shared on the internet is fantastic and one of the best tools that could have ever been given to us but there is no way of policing any of the information that is being put on the webpages, Wikipedia is an awesome example of this, it includes edit buttons below every paragraph that is put in, but they police it to a point but other than that, people are allowed to put their own opinions and version of events with no consequence, and getting information taken down off the website is an absolute nightmare, almost to the point of not bothering to even point out the misinformation that people are now freely reading.

 

 

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This is a very good point and one I should have brought up earlier. The internet as it is, is almost beyond policing, not just due to how easy it is to manipulate information and throw it out there, but also due to the over saturation of information. It can be a real struggle to find legitimate information especially when there is such an enormous amount of it. Also as you said technology has advanced so much that the ability to create a forgery is greatly increased.

Another point which I think may have been made before is that digital information is viewed by the general public as a lot more inpermanent or transient than that in a book. Even here at the university there has been many times that a lecturer has put more weight on using actual books from the library than digital resources. Not only is digital history hard to moderate but it is also not taken as seriously as it could be (understandably) which only compounds the problem. It could be used in so many wonderful ways (deconstructing the linear for example) but it still faces many challenges.

Also in regards to wikipedia they have strange relevancy guide lines for creating new pages, which block out anything the moderators declare as irrelevant which is very interesting. Want to add a page on something that not many people are aware of then the page will be deleted within a day or so. This does show there is somewhat strict restrictions when creating new pages on wikipedia at least but the basis for what wikipedia declares as irrelevant seems very intangible. This may have been a bit of a digression but it seemed relevant since you mentioned wikipedia.

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Joshua and Ilana you both make relevant points and also the articles you both provided, gave some very intresting insight into how other people view physical artifacts and digital preservation. Ilana I agree with you when you pointed out the if the object becomes obsolete we lose ineffect a connection to the past as we cannot physically show what was an important everyday item and what it was used for if we cannot see the object and it is a great point to say how do we know if the truth is being told, I personally think that if there were no pictures to backup something that was said in a book or an explanantion it would increase the amount of time that would be spent on research to find what the person was talking about, so being able to digitize artifacts would enable a sense of truth to be installed into what was being said in a history book.

BUT with everything there are problems that would arise from photos that could be used within this context, it has been shown how easy it is to forge a photo with all the programs that have been made for photographers use and as always people abuse these programs for what I would call nasty ends, there always has to be some way of verifying what you see within a digital context, that it is true and not made up, like we do as historians, we reference everything, include footnotes and biographies so that anyone who doubts what is being said can follow the same paper trail we did to be able to say what we included.

Enabling true and accurate information to be shared on the internet is fantastic and one of the best tools that could have ever been given to us but there is no way of policing any of the information that is being put on the webpages, Wikipedia is an awesome example of this, it includes edit buttons below every paragraph that is put in, but they police it to a point but other than that, people are allowed to put their own opinions and version of events with no consequence, and getting information taken down off the website is an absolute nightmare, almost to the point of not bothering to even point out the misinformation that people are now freely reading.

 

 

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With much respect to the author Jade, I am going to have to disagree with most of the argument of the article.  I do not understand how digitizing this particular record has any disadvantages. 

Firstly, the fact that it is digitized allows greater access to a wider audience.  As you mentioned, the book was self-published, not available to libraries and is a limited edition.  I understand that The Secret Museum of Anthropology was a pirated book of photographs from the original Primitiven frau.  The article also suggested that because the original book was digitized, it allowed you to track the original photographs/drawings from the pirated to the original. This discovery might have taken much longer manually. So it made research not only accurate, but efficient also.

Secondly, I do not feel that it loses any value.  The information/content in a book will always stay the same.  It doesn’t matter what font, cover art, or format is, the information will always be the same.  Which leads me to ask, ‘If the information is transferred in its entirety, how does it lose value?

Thirdly, by digitizing records, it does not eliminate an original.  Duplication to me is seen as a great way to insure the records safety for future generations.  Digitizing does not mean that we destroy the original.  I think we get so caught up with the fact of duplication, that we ignore that fact that the primary source still exists.  It only seeks to allow more people to see, analyse, and critique things that would have otherwise been impossible.  This is extremely relevant to me, as I live in New Zealand.  It is a $2000+ plane ticket alone to go to USA or UK to be able to physically access records.  Digitizing has allowed many people around the world to engage in documents that were otherwise impossible (financially).

However, I do love to see primary sources, and most other contributors have suggested the same sentiment.  Yet, I do believe this is more of an emotional attachment that gives the researcher/historian a kind of buzz.  But this feeling does not diminish the raw value of information that is contained in a digital version of it. 

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I agree with you, Dee-Anne. The author has utilised a digital medium in order to gain access to and understand her artefact. She does not mention any loss of meaning in the Primitive Frau in the medium through which she experienced it. This digitisation created the opportunity for new understanding of The Secret Museum Anthropology, which is one of the many benefits of using technology. I am beginning to understand more the concept that meaning is given through the audience who witness an object or text. While Jade describes the creation of The Secret Museum as covert, and seedy, another person would view the private creation of this text in a completely different way. In fact Jade states that she wants more people to experience the book, what better way to gain new understanding than to place it in an accessible medium such as an online archive?

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Dee Anne you raise some solid arguments about the benefits of digitization. However in regards to the overall value in the experience of consuming a book, whether it is Digitilized or 'Physical', it is entirely subjective. As clearly shown by alot of these comments is that everyone has different values.

Lauren Retter for example argues that she finds alot of value in 'physical' books. There is something to feel, smell and absorb whilst delving into them. This is an experience whilst reading that Lauren may find is much more enjoyable than reading a digitilized copy and there is nothing wrong with that. Another person however might prefer the scent of a computer or the warmth of the laptop whilst they read their digital book. There is nothing wrong about this either. They are both different experiences and the question of whether a book should be kept physical or digitilized varies from people to people.

 

From this I would have to say that we should be able to digitize objects and keep the physical copy as well. They are both valuable to different people and both of the ways we absorb our knowledge have their advantages. In a free and democratic society we should be able to choose how we read our books. As soon as people either  refuse to digitize books or refuse to have physical books we will have sadly lost an experience that would have been valuable to many people.

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