SNML-SMA – Digital Media Archives

Digital media archives – together instead of alone? The digital archives of today’s medium-sized and major companies are more than just a collection of documents and rows of numbers. They also contain a huge amount of images, technical drawings, animations and audiovisual materials (e.g. voice recordings and video features). With the production of digital materials becoming easier, the demands for archivists are gradually rising.

While budgets for administering and maintaining archives often remain the same, archivists are faced with an exponentially growing number of digital artifacts that need to be archived. It is a time-consuming process to categorize and tag audiovisual materials correctly and often there is a “semantic gap” between the real meaning of an artifact and its catalog tags. But what happens when the size or organization of a company don’t allow for the employment of a “full-time archivist”?

Living archives

One solution for dealing with these kinds of problems could be to invite authors and the interested public to join in the tagging process in a controlled environment. Of course this might not only require a certain kind of “incentive system” but also a clear distinction between comments and tags created by the archivist and those contributed by other authors. This leads to “collaboratively created company archives” like public image archives or historic archives for sports and other events. This way, individual tags turn into an entire “story” surrounding an artifact – stories that are so much richer in semantics than any archival classification system could ever be: the living archive!

Collaborative approaches with semantic integration

Does this sound familiar? Does it maybe make you think of “social tagging” applications like Flickr or last.FM and “social bookmarking” sites like del.icio.us? The idea behind this approach is nothing new but the novel thing about it is to apply it to the field of media archives and support the semantic integration of these enriched archives.