oais1.jpgNoted from OAIS. It strikes me that the concept of the Designated Community is central to how an OAIS even begins to think about its digital preservation. No one is saving records just for fun. They save records so that someone else will consult them at a later date. How we define ‘someone else,’ together with their interests and concerns, determines what features we need to preserve.

The atom unit here is the Consumer, which is defined in the Model (1.7.2) as “those persons or client systems who interact with OAIS services to find preserved information of interest and to access that information in detail. This can include other OAISs as well as internal OAIS persons or systems.” The Consumer is the entity which receives a DIP.

There might be thousands of individual Consumers but the OAIS should define a broad group of “potential Consumers who should be able to understand a particular set of information.”

The OAIS must understand the Knowledge Base of its Designated Community, so that the minimum Representation Information can be maintained (2.2.1). There’s a balance here which the OAIS needs to strike. It can keep little Representation Information, but in doing so it restricts the size and nature of its Designated Community. On the other hand, it could try to capture a large Designated Community, but by doing that it needs to records much more Representation Information. Oh no!

Moreover, the Designated Communitycan change over time, so that updates may be required to the Representation Information. As a rule of thumb, the Designated Communityis likely to get larger and more removed from the data as time goes by. “Selecting a broader definition of the Designated Community (eg the general public) when the information is first proposed for Long-Term Preservation can reduce this concern and also improve the likelihood that the information will be understandable to all in the original community” (3.2.3).

The Designated Community should be monitored to ensure that the Content Information is still understandable to them (3.2.5). This could be done via surveys, formal reviews, workshops, or individual interactions (4.1.1.6). They should be provided with copies of standards, policies, procedures etc of the OAIS.

The Designated Community in practice

The OAIS model itself suggests that the Designated Community can span from the general public all the way down to, say, a specific group of undergraduate science students. In the real world the Designated Community varies depending on what sort of e-records an OAIS repository keeps: such as LOCKISS to preserve journals in libraries, e-thesis repositories, web archiving repositories etc.

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