What are the Best Images for Promoting Digital Preservation?

We do a fair amount of personal digital archiving outreach.  Our main goal is to raise awareness that people who create and keep personal digital information need to take steps to ensure their data persists.  We hit the point over and over that digital files are maddeningly apt to disappear due to a host of threats, including obsolescence, deletion, error, forgetfulness, accident and more.

We look for pictures to tell this story.  This can be challenge because digital information is hard to graphically represent.  How many hackneyed iterations of streaming “1’s and 0’s” can we get away with, after all?

Broken and Damaged

One alternative is to use distressing images of damaged hardware, which I like to think speaks to frailty on a couple of levels.

Broken IBM laptop, by wlef70, on Flickr

Broken IBM laptop, by wlef70, on Flickr

Burned laptop, by wlef70, on Flickr

Burned laptop, by wlef70, on Flickr

Dead, Dead, Dead, by Mil, on Flickr

Dead, Dead, Dead, by Mil, on Flickr

Broken CD, by Chris Campbell, on Flickr

Broken CD, by Chris Campbell, on Flickr

Way Out of Date

Obsolescence is a major concern with digital stewardship, and a good way to depict this is through images out of data equipment and media. Including cute, baffled kids in the shots helps.

Osborne 1 full front, by wlef70, on Flickr

Osborne 1 full front, by wlef70, on Flickr

Old computers, by eurlief, on Flickr

Old computers, by eurlief, on Flickr

Kid and floppy disk, by wlef70, on Flickr

Kid and floppy disk, by wlef70, on Flickr

kid4_2, by wlef70_on Flickr

kid4_2, by wlef70_on Flickr

Messages, Signs and Agitprop

The most direct way to promote digital preservation is to say that it is a good thing. Or, conversely, to say that overlooking it leads to unfortunate consequences.

Digital preservation buttons, by wlef70, on Flickr

Digital preservation buttons, by wlef70, on Flickr

Personal Archiving Day, by wlef70, on Flickr

Personal Archiving Day, by wlef70, on Flickr

Guerrilla Poster - Wanted, by craving creativity, on Flickr

Guerrilla Poster - Wanted, by craving creativity, on Flickr

Slot Machine Guerrilla Marketing, by In A Guerrilla Costume, on Flickr

Slot Machine Guerrilla Marketing, by In A Guerrilla Costume, on Flickr

Send Us Your Ideas

If you have some ideas for images that offer compelling support for digital preservation please let us know. Images should have Creative Commons or other licenses that permit sharing and use.

6 Comments

  1. Rebecca
    March 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

    This year I made a Valentine’s Day comic about digital preservation: http://derangementanddescription.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/love-in-the-time-of-digital-preservation. All the images are public domain images from Flickr Commons.

  2. Justin Snow
    March 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I think the “broken & damaged” route is the most effective. People can relate to that on a quicker and more visceral level because everyone has gone through something like that at some point in their lives. Combined with clever/catchy campaign slogans, I think you can get a lot across pretty efficiently.

  3. Krissy Wilson – The Art of Google Books
    March 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Physical destruction sure gets the message across, but what about images of digital destruction, too? Say, the most terrifying of error messages (http://goo.gl/FBFwL) or corrupted files (http://goo.gl/ufEVy)?

    I bet a before-and-after comparison campaign would be successful, too (http://goo.gl/ACA3D and http://goo.gl/rtCBF, for example).

  4. Jette J
    March 12, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Three Danish national institutions – The Royal Library, The Danish National Archives and The State and University Library – work together on a great website about digital preservation, http://www.digitalbevaring.dk. The site is in Danish, but the illustrations are international 🙂
    All aspects of digital preservation are illustrated in a very creative and innovative way by illustrator Joergen Stamp. The site is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license. Attribution must be made to http://www.digitalbevaring.dk.
    A zip file with illustrations can be downloaded from http://digitalbevaring.dk/about-us/

  5. Alex
    March 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I can’t guarantee the rights for it, but the old Internet Explorer (1-5) 404 error page would be fitting here.

    It invokes historical sense – the software that used it is 10+ years obsolete, and calls to mind beige boxes and Clippy
    It’s iconic – everyone’s seen it before
    It’s apt – it signals “something used to be here, but no longer is”
    It has a double meaning – those versions of Internet Explorer are at-risk software, making the page itself at-risk

    Again, the issue is getting the rights to use it, although I suppose it depends on what you plan to use it for.

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