Planned Obsolescence, Preservation

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In the fourth chapter of Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence, titled “Preservation,” Dr. Fitzpatrick addresses a sort of anxiety about the future of texts produced in the age of networked publishing systems. This anxiety lies in underlying assumptions that printed books are tangible/material/durable while digital texts and data are insubstantial/ephemeral/fragile. Dr. Fitzpatrick dismantles this binary by highlighting the way in which printed material degrades and how recoverable data is.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 [In my current job at a conservation studio, I can attest to the fragility of paper (or any other material). Even acid-free can develop all sorts of unforeseen problems: accumulations of dirt, mold, salt, foxing (a sort of rust), etc. It can be really gross but also fascinating but I digress…]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I am very generally simplifying her nuanced disagreement with these assumptions about printed material and digital texts in order to get to a key difference, which Fitzpatrick explains, “has to do with our understandings of those forms” (123).

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Centuries of theory and practice have given way to a culture and infrastructure devoted to the preservation of printed material. Dr. Fitzpatrick argues that there now exists a need to quickly and carefully “develop practices appropriate to the preservation of our digital heritage” (123) that involves “collective insight and commitment of libraries, presses, scholars, and administrators” (125). One challenge in this age of digital production and the establishment of preservation practice(s) is due to the multiplicity of systems that host digital projects, which makes the task of developing unified theory difficult. Dr. Fitzpatrick argues that three preservation issues must be addressed: the development of commonly held standards for markup, the provision of appropriate metadata, and continued allowance of access.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 What was most compelling to me was the way that Dr. Fitzpatrick highlights the significance of social systems are in addressing these issues. In discussing standards, she highlights that open source software is supported by committed development communities. When discussing metadata, she argues that future classification systems should reflect both expert opinions as well as user experience. In the section on access, Dr. Fitzpatrick discusses two preservation programs, LOCKSS and Portico, with regard to their models of installation, collection, and distribution of material, and user experience.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Overall, this chapter demonstrates how productive a shift in focus can be. Certainly, issues of technique and best practices for digital preservation need to be considered, which Dr. Fitzpatrick discusses. At the same time, by calling for a shift in focus from the (im)material aspects of digital publications, which can fatalistic and reductive, to the social aspect of preservation. Establishing communities devoted to digital preservation beneficial to host institutions as well as a public good.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Source:

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Preservation.” Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: New York University Press, 2011. 121-154. Print.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    One of the articles mentioned yesterday during class was Jill Lepore’s “Can the Internet Be Archived?”, published by The New Yorker back in January, 2015 (

    Lepore not only talks about the continuous “overwriting, drifting and rotting” regarding Web preservation, but also discusses the importance of the Internet Archive in San Francisco. Along the article, other topics that are brought to the table include the relationship between material and digital archives, the restrictions that come with copyright infringement and the actual working-process of the Wayback Machine.

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    Encouraging students think about the impact advancements in digital technology have on the future of scholarship from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, the Digital Praxis Seminar is a year-long sequence of two three-credit courses that familiarize students with a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures offered by high-profile scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies in their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work. The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students.

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