Matthew Kirschenbaum & Naomi Nelson

L-95: Born-Digital Materials: Theory & Practice

2–6 July 2012


1)    How useful were the pre-course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: They were good preparation, for the most part. It was especially helpful to have them available online where possible. 2: Incredibly important for my ability to understand the course content. I did some research on the faculty members' work outside of RBS. 3: Very useful. Looked at websites for digital programs. 4: I found the readings to be very helpful and interesting. 5: Very useful and thorough—gave a good introduction to the subject. Useful to refer to them throughout the week. 6: Extremely. The course readings were very relevant to the curriculum, gave a good overview of the issues we'd discuss as well as provided a variety of perspectives. 7: Very useful. It would have been helpful to know further in advance which were required readings and which were discussion readings. 8: We directly referenced pre-course readings in class, so they were extremely relevant, and those sections that featured readings I was more familiar with were definitely improved (to me, not everyone) by my preparedness. 9: The list was helpful, great to have pieces to discuss in class. 10: The readings were very useful but I think the Digital Forensics textbook should have been optional, not required. 11: Very useful in preparing me for the course. 12: Yes—very useful and will continue to be useful. 13: Very useful, although it could be more clear which readings are the most important.

2)    Were the course workbook and other materials distributed in class appropriate and useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)? 

1: I liked the daily updates we were given via thumb drive. I expect the course materials will be useful references in the future. 2: All of the content provided for the course will help me when I go back to my home institution. It will serve as continuing reference material, and offers good places to start further research. 3: Extremely useful. I will consult them in future. 4: The workbook and readings were useful—though I think the cost of the Digital Evidence and Computer Crime text book was prohibitive in comparison to its actual use for the class. 5: Very useful and lots of them! All distributed digitally so we received materials in a range of formats and I am looking forward to playing with them when I get home! 6: Yes. I think I can go back to my institution with the resources provided in class and go through the reading to make decisions and take steps toward managing our born digital materials. 7: I hope they will be useful in that I hope my institution will allow me to apply them. 8: I plan on giving the in-class material a detailed going over in the next few months. 9: Yes, and I will find them useful to refer to. 10: Yes. I look forward to further exploring and using the distributed materials when I return home. 11: They will prove very invaluable. 12: Yes, now and in the future. 13: Yes, very.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: No; N/A. 2: No. 3: Yes, many. This is a course that is pragmatic as opposed to fun. However, rather necessary to my work. I learned more than any other. 4: I have taken two previous courses and this was the most informative and definitely best course. 6: No. 7: No. 8: Yes. While they differed in subject, they had similar workloads, with a good amount of pre-class reading, and lots of information imparted in class, but nothing in the way of a project. 9: No, this was my first RBS course. 10–11: No. 12: I have taken RBS courses before. I feel I gained both practical and theoretical skills in both previous courses and this course. 13: Yes (DesBib). This course was also very well organized.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: The theory components were useful—good overview of essential principles/concepts. Tech specifics also very useful. 2: Case studies, exercises and thought experiments were helpful for providing a road map for how I might begin to work with born-digital content. 3: The case studies and hands-on exercises. 4: Discussions about specific properties—forensics—emulation. 5: Everything was great, but I particularly enjoyed the practical components, which I had less experience with coming in. 6: Disc imaging and digital forensics, how concepts have been applied in the real world, demystification of digital life cycle. 7: The cloud archiving section was of most interest to me, but all of it was relevant to potential work. 8: Interest: the physical aspects of digital objects. Relevance: the various tools used to secure and classify digital objects. 9: I really valued the practical exercises and the excursions. 10: Understanding basic steps one could take to start dealing with born-digital materials. 11: Issues relating to donor relations, emulation, and preserving virtual worlds. 12: I found each module built on the previous one—extremely helpful frameworks, theory, and practical applications. 13: Concrete examples and showing us actual tools were most useful.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: Yes! 2: Yes. I was worried that I would be over my head on the technical skills, but I found that they provided more than enough guidance. I leave this course with confidence and new realms of knowledge. 3: Yes, it was perfect. I would like all PowerPoints though and not just the lectures. 4: I believe the scholastic goal was achieved. Intellectual level was appropriate. 5: Yes, absolutely! 6: Yes and yes. 7: The intellectual level was appropriate for me. 8: I thought so. It was a lot of territory to cover, and while I am by no means an expert after taking this class, I feel more prepared to think and talk about it in the future. 9-10: Yes. 11: Yes, I feel that the intellectual level of the course was ideal for both scholars and working professionals. 12: Yes, yes. 13: Yes.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: It gave me a much better sense of how born-digital materials are created, stored, and used. 2: That it was a good mix of theory and practice (as advertised!). It was engaging from day one to day five. The instructors were smart, funny, and engaged with the students. 3: The rapport between NN and MK in terms of pedagogical ability. Also, the case studies are helpful. 4: The discussions were stimulating and thought provoking. 5: Discussion helped me to draw on experience and perspectives of folks from many backgrounds, practical components, hearing and learning from two of the leaders in the born-digital field! 6: The instructors, using the digital forensics tools, playing with the "antique" computers. 7: I liked the combination of lectures, case studies, exercises, and excursions. 8: Lectures were fantastic, well-plotted. 9: The opportunity to hear about work happening in other institutions. I really enjoyed hearing about Agrippa and the Salman Rushdie archive. 10: Case studies and hands-on exercises. 11: The hands-on aspect of the training. 12: Mixing the theoretical with hands-on practice and case studies. 13: The sense that digital materials can be collaborative in terms of how we deal with them.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: Perhaps a little more hands-on work? Imaging a disk, for instance. I wouldn't want a whole lot of that, though. 2: A few more excursions? It's hard to say—I feel very satisfied. 3: More examples of how to actually utilize the tools. 4: N/A. 6: Not sure there is time, but a little more time for the hands-on exercises of imaging, using the capture and analysis tools. 7: I don't know that this is something to improve necessarily but I would have liked more web archiving case studies of groups, case studies not based around an individual. 8: Perhaps one more hands-on activity, lab, &c. Maybe something forensics-based. 10: Better balance between theory and practice; it seemed to lean a little more towards theory than practice and I would have liked more hands-on aspects, although I understand this could be difficult logistically. 12: The course was great—its momentum built beautifully over the week. 13: More varied days—hard to sit and listen eight hours a day.

8)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1–13: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1: Yes. 2: Yes. It might have helped to have a little time to talk about issues our institutions specifically faced. 3: Yes. More than I thought I would learn. 4: Yes. 5: Yes. A little more practical experience would have been great. 6–7: Yes. 8: Yes. Though I didn't have anything too specific in mind. 9–11: Yes. 12: Yes. Learned what I expected, wanted, and more. 13: Yes.

10)  How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: It will help me understand the work/challenges undertaken by archivists, librarians, and scholars I talk to. 2: Begin collecting born-digital content; have successful conversations with donors about the born digital content in their collections. 3: I plan to work with digital archivists in my shop. This course will help me with that dialogue. 4: My institution is just now receiving born-digital materials, and this knowledge will be great to confront these objects. 6: I am fortunate enough to have many of the tools discussed in my institution. I now feel better positioned to use them as well as help others in my unit to use them. 7: I hope to get discussions on these topics going at my home institution, and also to apply them to personal projects. 8: I imagine born-digital materials are going to be more and more prevalent, even in a traditional library. 9: I plan to find out how I can learn more about the personal digital manuscripts we are archiving at the British Library. 10: It gave me a better understanding of central and continually emerging issues in the field and I can contribute towards planning and policy for born-digital materials at my institution now. 11: I will use the knowledge in working with video game and born-digital moving images at my institution. 12: Will be of immediate use in planning and implementing digital initiatives within the library. 13: By applying them to the handling of digital materials.

11)  If your class made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: Yes. 2: Absolutely! 3: Yes. Gretchen Gueguen (GG), the Digital Archivist, was great. 4: Yes. 5: Yes, two trips both added valuable perspective, great to get a sense of how UVA is applying some of these technologies. 6: Very. 7: Yes, but maybe trips could have been shorter. 8: Yes, it was nice to see the Scholars' Lab, and FRED was an impressive sight. 9: Yes, really enjoyed going to the Scholars' Lab and hearing about their work. 10-11: Yes. 12: Yes—both the visit with Gretchen and FRED as well as the Scholars' Lab were excellent. 13: Yes—the trips were well thought out and very informative.

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

1: One lecture was great, the other less so. 2: Yes. They helped me to feel more connected to others in the course. 3: Yes. 4: Did not attend. 5: Yes, and I really enjoyed them—great chance to get to know my fellow students. 6-7: Yes. 8: Yes, as always. 9: Yes, I especially enjoyed the Monday evening lecture. 10: The lectures were extremely worthwhile. 11: Yes. 12: Yes—all. 13: Yes, although I skipped some.

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the UVA's Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: The instructors and staff were all great about this. 2-3: N/A. 4: None. 7: None. 8: Well, not much of a problem for this class. 10: None. 11: I would actually increase the time spent handling the vintage technology in class as it was very useful.

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Yes and yes. 2: Yes, yes! 3: Yes, I would and I suggest that RBS market this course better as well to book history students. 4: Yes. 5: Yes! 6: I believe I did, and I will certainly recommend the course to others. 7: Yes! 8: Yes, most definitely. 9: Yes and yes. 10: Yes. Yes. 11: Yes and I would definitely recommend to others. 12: Yes—very much will recommend. 13: Yes, yes.

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [] or Michael Suarez [].)

1: A terrific, useful, and fun class. I hope you keep offering it. It would be great to have more scholars take it. 2: This course was well worth the time, energy, and investment. I learned an incredible amount. Thank you. 3: Bring a big bag for the laptops, your arm will get tired. Take copious notes. 4: None. 6: Thank you—this was a great experience. 7: Don't be afraid of this class! 8: I would advise people taking this class to do reading of the material with the idea of getting a general idea, then maybe doing a more in-depth reading the night before the discussion for that reading. 11: I found this course to be a very informative exercise and was particularly excited about the hands-on training and demonstrations, which gave us first-hand knowledge of the subject. 12: Take the time to do the readings—I returned to them several times throughout the week. Also—you know more than you think you do—the class gives you solid language to talk with donors, colleagues, scholars, and directors about digital issues. 13: A few labs giving us the chance to use digital curation tools would be great.

Number of respondents: 13





Institution gave me leave


11 (84%)


I took vacation time


1 (8%)


N/A: self-employed, retired or had the summers off


1 (8%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course





Institution paid tuition


12 (92%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself




Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

1 (8%)



Institution paid housing


10 (77%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


1 (8%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


2 (15%)





Institution paid travel


9 (70%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel


2 (15%)


N/A: lived nearby


2 (15%)





There were one journalist, three librarians/archivists with some rare book duties, one library/university administrator, three librarians/archivists of digital materials, two librarians with no rare book duties, one library assistant/clerk, one antiquarian bookseller, one other.


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

6 (46%)

Work Colleague

3 (23%)



Word of mouth

4 (31%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College: 5 (38%)

Cavalier Inn: 2 (15%)

Red Roof Inn: 2 (15%)

Other: 4 (31%)