Data Management and Communication
Transparency for Empirical Data
by Mark Mudge
Intellectual transparency is a necessary element for the use of digital representations in scholarship. Reliable scholarship, distributed collaboration, future reuse of today’s investment in digitization, as well as the curation and long-term preservation of these assets, all require digital information transparency. Yet, this understanding has little value unless the means of its realization permeate the tools and standards of best practice used by cultural heritage professionals and their multi-disciplinary natural science associates. Whether such tools and standards of best practice are adopted by this community will determine the digital future of cultural heritage work.
This paper explores issues influencing these critical adoption decisions. It discusses emerging digital technologies encouraging widespread adoption of digital practices. Key principles include: the nature and semantic attributes of visualizations and digital surrogates; empirical (scientific) provenance; perpetual digital conservation and ‘born archival’ semantic knowledge management. The paper explores how the transparency offered by empirical provenance and semantic knowledge management contributes to the reliability of digital surrogates; how reliable digital surrogates offer solid foundations for hypothetical and/or speculative visualizations by incorporating a continuum of uncertainty; and how long-term preservation can ensure that digital representations are available for future generations.
The paper also investigates the role of semantically-based knowledge management strategies and their use in simplifying digital methodologies’ ease of use by cultural heritage professionals, along with enabling archivists to develop new, robust digital information distribution strategies and to successfully implement long-term preservation activities. In conclusion, the paper analyzes these emerging technologies’ potential to democratize digital technology, making digital tools and methods easy to adopt and make humanity’s legacy widely available to diverse audiences.