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Chapter 1: Inheritance of Digital Media by Dr. Edina Harbinja

You're Dead, Your Data Isn't: What Happens Now?
The first chapter in Partners for Preservation is ‘Inheritance of Digital Media’, written by Dr. Edina Harbinja. This topic was one of the first I was sure I wanted to include in the book. Back in 2011, I attended an SXSW session titled Digital Death. The discussion was wide-ranging and attracted people of many backgrounds including lawyers, librarians, archivists, and social media professionals. I still love the illustration above, created live during the session.

The topic of personal digital archiving has since gained traction, inspiring events and the creation of resources. There are now multiple books addressing the subject. The Library of Congress created a kit to help people host personal digital archiving events. In April 2018 a Personal Digital Archiving Conference(PDA) was held in Houston, TX. You can watch the presentations from the PDA2017 hosted by Stanford University Libraries. PDA2016 was held at the University of Michigan Library and PDA2015 was hosted by NYU. In fact, the Internet Archive has an entire collection of videos and presentation materials from various PDA’s dating back to 2010.

I wanted the chapter on digital inheritance to address topics at the forefront of current thinking. Dr. Edina Harbinja delivered exactly what I was looking for and more. As the first chapter in Part 1: Memory, Privacy, and Transparency, it sets the stage for many of the common threads I saw in this section of the book.

Here is one of my favorite sentences from the chapter:

“Many digital assets include a large amount of personal data (e.g. e-mails, social media content) and their legal treatment cannot be looked at holistically if one does not consider privacy laws and their lack of application post-mortem.”

This quote gets at the heart of the chapter and provides a great example of the intertwining elements of memory and privacy. What do you think will happen to all of your “digital stuff”? Do you have an expectation that your privacy will be respected? Do you assume that your loved ones will have access to your digital records? To what degree are laws and policies keeping up (or not keeping up) with these questions? As an archivist, how might all this impact your ability to access, extract, and preserve digital records?

Look to chapter one of Partners for Preservation to explore these ideas.

Bio

Dr. Edina Harbinja

Dr. Edina Harbinja is a senior lecturer in media/privacy law at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. Her principal areas of research and teaching are related to the legal issues surrounding the Internet and emerging technologies. In her research, Edina explores the application of property, contract law, intellectual property, and privacy online. Edina is a pioneer and a recognized expert in post-mortem privacy, i.e. privacy of the deceased individuals. Her research has a policy and multidisciplinary focus and aims to explore different options of regulation of online behaviors and phenomena. She has been a visiting scholar and an invited speaker to universities and conferences in the USA, Latin America, and Europe, and has undertaken consultancy for the Fundamental Rights Agency. Her research has been cited by legislators, courts, and policymakers in the US, Australia, and Europe as well. Find her on Twitter at @EdinaRl.

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Posted in born digital records, copyright, Partners for Preservation, preservation, privacy