by Jennifer Hilder (PhD Intern)
At times during Dr Ian Anderson’s talk at Industry Day 2013, he sounded like a bit of a superhero. “When digital stuff goes wrong”, he said, “we can get it back”. It’s a big claim and a reassuring one for anyone who has sat in front of a black computer screen knowing that they haven’t backed up that half-finish essay. But Ian, the Theme Lead for the Digital theme, was really talking about more than broken down old laptops.
A lot of work relating to the Digital theme (but not all of it) goes on in HATII, the College of Art’s Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, where Ian is based. As Ian said during his talk, they specialise in three main areas: digital assets management (making sure digital information is being managed and exploited in the best way), computer forensics (making sure information is safe, especially on mobile devices) and developing Open Access systems (making digital information available online).
In fact, the college is so good at this that it has helped to develop tools so other people can do it too, as in the Data Management Skills Support Initiative (DAMSII). The college is also a partner in the Digital Curation Centre (DCC), which supports research into data management, and helped to create a toolkit for administrators to assess their own digital repositories.
With the amount of digital information always increasing, the college has worked on projects that try to address the challenge of digital preservation. The Planets Project involved partners from across Europe and took on the huge challenge of how to conserve cultural and scientific knowledge. Another Europe-wide project, BlogForever, is looking specifically at how to preserve and manage blog content.
It’s really important to remember, though, that other parts of the college are also engaging with the digital world (well, who isn’t?). One example is the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic. The work that the college is doing with the Bòrd na Gàidhlig also hopes to lead to further technological developments, including apps based on the Gaelic language. Linguists can benefit from technology as well as languages themselves. The college has been involved in launching a new software programme designed to help adult learners improve their literacy and for non-native English speakers work on their language skills.
Most importantly, being Digital isn’t all about machines or black boxes. As Ian said, this is really about people and their relation to all this “digital stuff”. Working with digital technology only works if it works for you.