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Why is Personal Digital Archiving difficult? | What are the obstacles to caring for our digital stuf

What's Stopping Us? Why is caring for digital treasure so hard?

Here are some thoughts I had after reading:

Cushing, Amber L. ‘Highlighting the Archives Perspective in the Personal Digital Archiving Discussion’. Library Hi Tech 28, no. 2 (15 June 2010): 301–12.

Looking after your digital treasures requires effort

I bet you know that you should be regularly backing up your stuff. That ideally you should be copying files to the newest format. That you should be going through and deleting clutter. I would be surprised if anything in my 8 Steps to Starting Your Digital Archive was particularly new to you.

But we're not all like Malcolm. Actually getting all that done is... difficult.

Because starting is difficult

Because it is overwhelming.

Our digital collections are complex. Our stuff is distributed across different devices, storage areas and apps. And a brilliant photograph is jumbled up with a trillion attempts at the same shot.

The digital environment moves on so quickly, that our digital spaces seem unstable. And anyway, keeping up is more interesting and fun, than catching up!

And if you're anything like me, then perfectionism kicks in too. Going through old photos and projects feels like something I should enjoy doing. So I put off starting it until circumstances are perfect. Until I have enough time, tea, storage space. Until we have a tidy enough desk, and a nice organised filing structure... Sound familiar?

Because finishing is difficult

It is so easy to run out of steam halfway through.

When we come up against some software glitch or failure, the temptation is to take a break for a while. And then the stumbling block puts us off starting again.

And making confident decisions about what we value, and what we can delete is difficult. It is draining, even emotional, sometimes. So we defer decisions until later. And the same thing happens - we struggle to pick it back up again.

How can we turn this around?

So... yes, it can be tough to start, and tougher to finish. Yes, it is never that much of an immediate priority for us busy peeps, who have so much going on.

But yes, it is worth it.

My answer is to think about why this matters to you.

Who are you doing it for? Yourself? Real or potential future generations?

Where do you want your stuff to end up? Do you want it to end up in a museum or archive? Do you want to pass it on to your loved ones after you die? Would you like to create a shared resource so your family and friends can add to it together?

Being clear on why you want your digital stuff to last long-term, helps for two reasons:

1. it gives you motivation to get (re-)started

2. it lets you know when you're done.

Thank you for reading!

This is the third article in my Deep Dive into Personal Archiving Series.

Previous Article: Is your Laptop your Home?

If you would like to be in the loop for the rest of this series, I am sending my subscribers a round-up email once a month. Sign up here (and as a bonus, you will get my workbook on how to set up your digital archive - absolutely free!)

Until next week - let me know over on twitter whether you're a "get started" person, or a "let me just tidy my desk first" person... ;)

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