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“Is digitization easy? - No. Well yes... I mean no! It is about scanning books. Or is it?”
Problems of digitization
Digitization in it's core is an effort that benefits the future, so it´s necessary to think ahead. Digitized content has to endure in a relevant form over long periods of time. Therefore you have to solve some really difficult problems before you start with digitization. Who will use those documents and how? Who are the target customers of digitized content (creative industry, librarians, museums, education, tourist industry, researchers)? What is the purpose of digitization? What cultural content to digitize? Well ideally all of it should be digitized. The question here is, what to do first.
Then there is the technical part of it. What resolution will be sufficient? What kind of format to use? Which medium will hold these information?
There is a lot more to it than just scanning books.
Strangely enough institutions which are lagging behind the most in digitization are libraries. The leaders in this field are museums. Although one could argue, that they have the easiest job with digitizing their collections. Galleries just take pictures of everything they own and post it on a website. Simple as duck.
As it is with anything else, the EU strives for long term sustainability. Even in digitization. That basically means: how do we manage this economically? How do we make money from this? Different groups prefer different approaches.
Librarians sought to enable free access of everything to everyone. That basically means a donor oriented system, funded from outside sources. Museums and galleries seek different goals, they want to provide entertainment, curated content, exhibitions, and to help educational communities. This creates opportunities for their own business activities, but educational institutions usually don't hold too much potential for generating large profits. This would also mean dependance on sponsorships or government involvement. However this has been the norm for many years and it probably won't change in the near future. Mr. Tóth sees the way in a different direction. According to him a reasonable way of funding digitization would be to create a business model for somebody in private sector, that will be able to make profit.
The Creative industry is the most likely to be the savior of digitization. Forming new art pieces as well as new artists requires exposure to massive amounts of cultural material. Either for inspiration or creative reuse.
What is reuse of cultural content? According to Mr. Tóth it is creating of something new, creating interpretations, putting old things into new context. Sadly only a miniscule part of digital heritage is available freely for reuse, because most of it is protected under copyright law.
Creative industry can turn reused digital content into money, and they need a lot of it. I meant that they need a lot of content... And money.
It is then necessary to identify the needs of this industry and cater to them. With a real business branch, creating jobs and paying taxes, backing memory institutions in their digitization efforts, it would be much easier to negotiate with government officials all the necessary funding. All that is needed is a few million euro, which is peanuts in comparison to state or EU budgets.
According to Mr. Tóth, it is imperative to convince the general public, that it is reasonable to pay for digital content. But historically the public is not too keen to pay for material, that used to be free.
It is very important to define clear arguments as to why do we need digitized content and who will be using it. However the biggest challenge of all is to find a definitive economic model of funding these efforts. Digitization of cultural heritage is absolutely necessary, we just need to convince the world about it.
European Union Policies, Strategies and Core Ideas
Member states joint their efforts in the so called Expert Group on digitization. This group has formed 3 main objectives for it's existence:
1. monitor the progress of implementation of commission recommendations
2. exchange information and practices
3. (most important for us) assisting the commission in monitoring development
Their mission is to digitize and make accessible all of the European cultural heritage. They also try to make it sustainable along with digitizing as much is possible. The activities of separate countries differ greatly. While the Spanish, Slovenians, and Lithuanians are very active in digitization, the French are not very interested, which is very curious considering the quantity and importance of French culture in Europe. Norwegians absolutely rule in digitization, because 80 % of their cultural heritage is digitized, while Hungarian heritage is only processed on 1 %.
Mr. Toth also mentioned a few interesting government projects, for example: Social benefits as a reward for work in digitization. These workers have done some good work, but this type of unqualified workforce is not very effective.
Another area where governments and the EU could be more helpful is the legal side of the matter. It's important for digitization workers to overcome legal constraints. Different types of content require different approaches. There is public domain, Copyright protected material, Orphan work (unknown author), and out of commerce authors who don't expect profit for their work.
“Europeana is the trusted source of cultural heritage brought to you by the Europeana Foundation and a large number of European cultural institutions, projects and partners. It’s a real piece of team work.”
Although Europeana is the largest collaborative project dealing in digitized heritage, the numbers are not that optimistic. Just 19% of Europe's cultural artefacts are digitized and only 12% of them are saved in Europeana.
It is also facing a great financial challenge. Europeana is surviving solely on member states contributions. It is not self sustainable and this reality is not likely to change soon. It receives only very little money from the business sector. Most active contributor is the Netherlands government, because the headquarters resides in the Hague. Mr Tóth posed a very problematic question to answer: Who is the actual owner of Europeana? Is it the citizens? Member states? Eu commissions? Nobody really knows. Whoever it is, they will need fix a thing or two.
Other interesting projects
Enumerate project is led by consortium of ten separate institutions including private sector businesses and Hungarian national library. The main objective of enumerate is to create community of data collectors.
The other objectives are to develop a methodology of digitization, and create normalized data with intelligence (results of surveys) – enumerate.eu
British Library: Blabs.co.uk – free images from books for reproduction and reuse
Ajapajik - Geolocation game using reused historical pictures to identify a place in modern day world
VanGO yourself – interpretations of masterpieces using photo camera
Europeana Cyprus archeology project – collecting pictures of tourists and they use the to reconstruct historic sites in 3D (crowdsourcing project)
Other digitization projects: European film Gateway, ATHENA, Linked heritage, Enumerate
Zdroj titulního obrázku:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitizing.