A Term with Multiple Meanings

Digital Anthropology

The definition of digital artifact, or artifacts, depends on what aspect of the digital rendering we are talking about. An artifact -this word itself - defines a man-made thing created for a purpose. We come to understand this in light of archeology with implements found from past persons. Adding the term 'digital' gives it a 20th (and especially 21st) Century emphasis, with our moving from analog - direct waves - of transcribing information, signals, communication, and what other media inputs and outputs that might be needed. First we will look at end products, then the technical details in the process, where the first thing discussed, a totality, could be a good thing, the second, a small part within the process, becomes an aberration. A third thing is using the term for their own proprietary means.

The Website

The name, "Digital Artifact", is registered and is complete with online page (digitalartifact.net), where the company claims to have: "Fast easy-to-use technology to help your business get back on its feet after a complete system failure!" Another URL is "digital-artifacts" and they specialize in photography (specialty: weddings) and other graphic services.

The Magazine

There was also a journal aptly titled, Digital Artifact Magazine, whose website (digitalartifactmagazine.com) is now defunct (you can buy the domain). San Francisco's Modern Times Bookstore in 2009 introduced them with an invitation:


Digital Artifact, an online, multimedia publication, invites you to celebrate "Issue Three: We Made This For You Out Of Nothing". This event will have "Issue Three" contributors Matt Roher and Jacob Evans, some-time editors and co-founders of Small Desk Press, read email poetry. Christian Nagler, writer, teacher, and performer, with Anna Halprin's Sea Ranch Collective will perform utilizing universally available materials. This event asks that {you bring such as} might optimize your experience, such as vegetables to eat, unused art supplies you can donate to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or any technological skills you can swap with others partaking in the event.

The Documents

Examining the digital artifact as a saved piece of analog, or real time artifact, reformed by the on and off binary bits of that mathematical computer language invites us to look at writing and other documents. It could be The Star Spangled Banner, the Mona Lisa, a digital picture, or an email. As early as 1988, archivists were worrying about saving information on computers, and from then on there have been discussions about the longevity of these materials. Don Waters of Yale University was more concerned with the physical endurance of the media holding these stored libraries. Fortunately, the laser media has shown to be more long lasting than definitely the magnetic media from decades earlier. Also, something stored with an old operating system, or technology might not get retrieved with a newer one.

I suppose the Cloud, a fancy way of talking about multiple servers holding information, is the future, at least short-term. Could solid state data storage be the solution? Hopefully we "don't miss our water, when the well run dry..."

University Library Museums have had to come to grips with this, and indeed, the Smithsonian Institute declared in "The Future of Digital Artifacts":

The idea of anticipatory democracy is that as organizations like the Smithsonian think out to the future, we do so in an inclusive way, allowing the community to help define that future. In that spirit, a few months ago on this page I initiated a discussion about our own museum’s digital future, and asked readers for input on the question of whether the role of museums as trusted sources of online information would become more or less important in the digital age. The response warmed a humble museum professional’s heart: nearly three- quarters of respondents thought it would become more important, 18% thought it would remain about the same, and only 9% thought it would become less important.


These repository institutions, entrusted with any cultures' digital renderings, or references, and online collections, for 'virtual' viewing, are wondering should they have brief or exhaustive digital documents. And there is the issue of quality versus quantity, involving man hours and the cost effectiveness of both.

Digital Sarcophagi

On a more personal nature, New York Times journalist Rob Walker looked into the perpetuity of individuals - captured on the web. What happens to your social network and other posts after one is deceased? Others at MIT tried to look at this kind of personal archiving endeavor in a scientific manner, breaking it down as first, "Social Network Fragments" which attempted to reveal

...the faceted contexts that people systematically create. To do so, the system derives a graph of social relationships by analyzing the recipients of emails using header data and "PostHistory" elements.
And secondly, as "PostHistory" {sic} where they looked at the
...two dimensions of email:
1) time and
2) dyadic relationships with ego (the owner of the email account).
They used terms like visualization, social landscape, evolution of social clusters, and rhythms of exchange to aid in defining terms for analyzing data to maintain an empirical study.


Digital Boo Boos

The other digital artifacts are those which occur in digital reproductions of analog material to digital, and then shown in print or otherwise. In audio they use 'dithering' or adding 'pink noise' to bring back a seamless stream of aesthetics to music.

In the visual, they are likely to be unwanted altered defects for example: 'jaggies', which make smooth lines look like squared steps, most likely coming from bit-mapped resolution problems (and cured by vector graphics or shaded pixels - antialiasing.) This phenomenon is more complicated than just the above-mentioned. It can be broken down as noise, blooming, pixelation, interpolation, compression, sharpening and unsharp masking, and stepping.


Just like in the hearing world, in the seeing one, there is a corresponding feature of noise, especially with the use of Charged Coupled Devices or CDDs in most digital cameras and scanners. There is the 'dark noise' that is an electronic thing present in them (the delay in taking pictures is the dark noise subtraction mechanism), and the other is analog to digital image conversion(A/D) noise. Low light brings out more of this. Newer CCDs have better blue filters keeping out the unwanted infrared. Ironically, for some images, especially 3D, one has to add noise for the best results.


This effect of light spill over derives from photons leaking from one sensor to another. Larger sensors are better than smaller, and CMOS, despite its drawbacks avoids this problem. Staying away from subjects with reflections is also an aid.


This is that stairway effect from too small sensor arrays, and as said before, called the 'jaggies.' One has to spend some serious money to get cleaner lines.


Best demonstrated as 'Christmas Tree Lights' (when not asked for!) When an image is blown up this effect that has to do with color filtration difficulties with red, green and blue, and the array's over-compensating to be like human vision with green. So red images with lots of white will exhibit this unrealistic mosaic easily. It is fixed with desaturation tweaking, or one can try changing the method (though not without drawbacks) of expanding image size with Adobe Photoshop type software. Ghosting on diagonal lines presents its spooky self too, unless one has the hardware and or software to exorcise er, manipulate it out of it.


These picture, and especially video files can be large, so compression, squishing them smaller, is used often. When we use the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) format, we are using a 'lossy' type conversion. The emphasis on loss, as in losing something (and as opposed to 'non lossy' compression). What we get then and increasingly more, the smaller we make the file, is blurriness and 'color jumping.' And, once again, smaller sensor arrays make for worse clarity. Different algorithms cause different results also, maybe one will or will not see the edges get predominant, or pixels capriciously appearing where one does not desire. Also any other artifacts in the process are amplified in the compression process. Unless one has to have thumbnail sizes, it is best to avoid overly shrinking them.

Sharpening and Unsharp Masking

Unlike film, which has chemical compensation for loss of evident sharpness, the digital means of achieving this and emulating the softening of film, is by edge contrast. If one over applies unsharp masking, then one gets (un-saintly) halo effects and other harshness to the picture. Also more bits, (instead of 24) for the color capture system, up to 36 makes for bringing out subtleties enhanced.


This linear aspect affecting shadow areas seen with photo editing software, is usually from scanners, from the gate movement and electronic harmonics.


http://www.nla.gov.au/npo/conf/npo 95rh.html
http://www.dpcorner.com/topics/inde x.shtml
http://www.infowars.com/digital-artifacts-prove-obama-birth-ertificate- altered/
http://www.fidelityamplifier.com/redu e_artifacts.html
http://blog.americanhistory.si.edu/os aycanyousee/2009/07/the-future-of- digital-artifacts.html
http://www.neatorama.com/2011/01/ 06/digital-artifacts-of-the-dead/

For the Mad Weeks of May: Artifacts!

<p>Just the Facts er Fax, Ma'am</p>

gnarl says you can draw stuff on pieces of paper and take them to the post office to send to friends. they offer arty fax, three for a dollar.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.