Guide to Digitization


Module #4 focused on the different purposes, methods, and uses of digitization and issues related to it. In creating a Guide to Digitization, one must first consider three essential questions and the answers to them.

  • What can you capture, and not capture, when you digitize something?

Digitizing an image or object can help to create core content that can represent and disseminate information, text, and at time audio-visual content. However, according to Melissa Terras, “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.”

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

Our activity nicely illustrates the differentiation of digitization and its effectiveness based on the type of item. The following categories were used to digitally asses three images and corresponding videos of the “21st Century Kitchen”: size, weight, color, texture, all sides, sound smell. Digital Images captured an average of 50 percent of these categories, while digital video captured an average of 90 percent. The objects included text, food products, and inanimate objects. Images worked best for text-heavy items while videos worked best for objects or substances: texture, size, sound, or weight.

  • 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?

Marlene Manoff identifies what she calls, “Textual Scholarship,” which address the physical aspects of a source in addition to the text itself. I think this is important to consider even when dealing with what many researchers would largely dismiss as an essential consideration. For artifacts, I think that descriptions, dimensions, and audio-visual aids are extremely helpful but not always practical or affordable for those (libraries, archives, etc.) doing the digitizing. OCR is also an extremely useful technology for translating and providing information from non-traditional texts.

While many digitized representations are utilized for the purpose of research and/or learning in an educational environment, several of our readings pointed to the growing interest and availability of digitized information for public audience interest (such as Google Books) as well asĀ  commercial digitization ventures.

  • My “Guide to Digitization” would include the following components:
  1. Following the Digitization Guideline of the Library of Congress in terms of scanning and color settings as well as formatting.
  2. As Paul Conway argued, digital humanists should always be cognizant of the intellectual premise, goals, and “meaning-making” that is created through and by the digitization process. As Manoff stated, “If print and electronic versions are different objects, we should not treat them as if they are interchangeable.”
  3. We must discern the cultural purpose, academic relevance, and historical significance of the original item(s) when considering the best method and format of digitization. This credo should guide the digitization of individual items as well as overarching goals of collections, databases, or exhibits. It includes decisions whether to enhance, zoom, crop, etc.
  4. Digitization should never be a substitute for preservation. While digitization can reduce wear and tear, digital surrogates should serve a greater purpose.
  5. Within reason and with given resources, the digitization of images, objects, texts, and other forms of media should be accompanied by as much information and technology as possible including OCR, indexing, searchable terms, and cross-referencing.