Revising the economic lifecycle

14 Sep

I need to revise the economic lifecycle. I had a few comments from the original post, some on the blog and some on twitter or by email. I aso needed to lin it more explicitly to the economic risks. I have changed the “Problem?” element to a “Risk event” element, to signify a point at which some significant risk emerges. I’ve also changed the shape of the “Make available” box from a circle to an action element from the flowchart symbols, and added the word “ingest” in parentheses.

The latter brings me to the point of this post. One person (whom I greatly respect) suggested there should be a stronger tie-in to the OAIS terminology and to the DCC lifecycle. I’ve struggled with this idea, and so far adding that word “ingest” is as far as I’ve got. There are several reasons:

a) this model does not (just) attempt to describe an Open Arvchival Information System, or even an archive. Part of the point of sustainability is to look across the whole life. This model represents one stage in that life (which could also be the whole life). It could describe an object in a digital library, an email on my desktop, a song in iTunes even (perhaps). So applying the (comparatively little known) OAIS language seems somewhat perverse and excluding.

b) what other language than ingest would we use? I’ve always hated the term “disseminate”, and its so reminiscent of that whole OAIS post-use archive as a place to put things and maybe get out later. I really want to emphasise use.

So, my question is, can anyone suggest how to rebuild this model with terminology closer to the OAIS/DCC-lifecycle terminology, that would work in the broader context I’ve tried to describe?

So here’s the model, and the slightly updated description below it…

Image representing the draft economic lifecycle model

What is this diagram supposed to mean? It’s an economic view of the digital asset (object) lifecycle…

Digital assets are created (somehow, somewhere), and some of those are selected for the service, archive, whatever. The selected digital assets have to be prepared for use; this is the “ingest” phase in OAIS, the editing phase in publishing, etc. It includes adding relevant metadata required for use. This has been identified as one of the highest cost stages in archiving (Beagrie et al). Once usable, the digital objects have to be made available; this phase should really continue on, as there are continuing (running) costs associated with it for the whole time the objects are in the system.

Once made available, the digital assets can be used (disseminated in OAIS terms). It’s only through use (or perhaps potential use) that the assets create value. The economic case is that the aggregated value over many resources and significant time exceeds the aggregated costs (even if the two are expressed differently).

As long as there is a reasonable perception of value, this situation can continue semi-indefinitely. But eventually, some sort of significant problem (risk event) will arise. This could be a technical problem to do with the digital objects (eg obsolescence); it could be a technical problem to do with the service (needs some kind of significant upgrade); it could be a business problem to do with the service (bankruptcy, change of ownership or focus, etc). But at round that point further decisions have to be made as further significant investment may be required. Some (or all) digital assets will be retained, perhaps transformed etc to make it usable in the new environment. Some (or all) digital assets will be disposed of, de-accessioned, etc.


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