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PEVIAR 2: Self-explaining Codes

English title PEVIAR 2: Self-explaining Codes
Applicant Gschwind Rudolf
Number 125028
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Digital Humanities Lab Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Information Technology
Start/End 01.06.2009 - 31.05.2010
Approved amount 51'332.00
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Keywords (14)

Digital Archiving; Barcodes; Microfilm; Digital Preservation; Cultural Heritage; photographic microfilm; long-term preservation; digital cultural heritage; hybrid medium; 2d barcode; migration; self-documentation; self-explaining code; information representation

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
LeadDigital archiving is an important challenge of the information society. PEVIAR II develops a unique solution to the problems of digital archiving in the form of a migration-free, hybrid, microfilm-based digital archiving system.BackgroundLong-term digital archiving is concerned with preserving the information created in digital form for long time spans. For several reasons, it remains a very difficult task even decades after the advent of computer technologies. In analogue archives, material decay is the primary concern. In digital archives, technological discontinuity is even more relevant. Hardware and software are constantly improved, and over time, old devices and formats tend to become obsolete. Information contained in obsolete systems is often costly to access, and may in the worst case be lost entirely due to complete incompatibility. Today's digital archives migrate their information periodically: they copy it to new devices and eventually convert it to new formats, thus ensuring its accessibility and safety. Migration does provide a means to preserve information for a long time, but is very expensive and error-prone.The GoalThe project continues the development of a migration-free digital archiving solution, PEVIAR (Permanent Visual Archive). It is based on a microfilm carrier and represents information in the visual domain. It is hybrid in that it can both store analog and digital information. Data access depends only on the ability to capture a high-resolution image of the carrier and to process it. In the context of long-term preservation, understanding of the software formats (e.g. pdf, tif, doc) is essential. Therefore, the project focuses on making PEVIAR self-documenting. The encoding of the information in digital form must be explained completely on the carrier itself and in a manner that is directly accessible. In addition, it should support automatic processing. In the project, we develop the notion of self-explaining information representations, and show how they address the problem of software format obsolescence.ImpactPEVIAR introduces migration-free archiving. While this may seem far-fetched given the past and current developments in the computer industry, we show that it is in fact possible if the fundamental problems of digital archiving are addressed. Migration-free archiving allows many interesting application scenarios. Among them are cultural heritage applications, where longevity and guaranteed access are crucial; and security applications such as digital signatures, where originality or authenticity are important.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
112422 PEVIAR - Langzeitarchivierung digitaler Information auf photographischem Farbmaterial 01.06.2006 Project funding (Div. I-III)


This research plan describes the proposed project extension to the PEVIAR (Permanent Visual Archive, SNF grant no. 205121-112422) project, called PEVIAR II. PEVIAR provides a principal solution to the problems of digital archiving, most notably, data carrier decay and hardware and software obsolescence resulting from short technology life cycles. While it offers unprecedented advantages over conventional digital archiving solutions, it must still in a more profound way address the problem of obsolescence at the level of file formats and executable code. In short, the project extension aims at developing code (machine instruction programs) that is self-explaining in the sense that it can be executed under circumstances that are not known in advance and without relying on any knowledge about the systems that were in use at the time when the code was written. Given such a code, arbitrary digital objects could be archived together with the code that is required for accessing the information represented by objects. The research of PEVIAR II will be conducted by a PhD student and within one year of the completion of PEVIAR. It forms the central part of a PhD thesis which is currently under development and jointly supported by the Imaging and Media Lab and the Computer Science Department (High Performance and Web Computing Group) at the University of Basel.