The digitisation of a material object (whether 2D or 3D) is the technical process of creating a digital copy of it — in other words, its photographing or scanning. In order to create a digital copy of high quality for contributing it to the digital collection Outcast Europe, it is useful to keep in mind the following:
Nowadays, we don’t have to own an expensive photographic camera or a professional scanner to create high-quality digital copies of objects. Smartphone cameras are of extremely good quality, and we can also use the scanner apps, many of which are provided and can be downloaded for free.
Good lighting is essential to photograph or scan any object in focus. When we shoot indoors, our images tend to be dark, while when we take photos outdoors, sunlight might “burn” our photographs, making them look too pale. Most smartphones have white balance and ISO settings, and the best thing for us to do is to use the auto options. Moreover, it is important to know at all times where the source of light is (for example, the sun or a lamp). Because, if we stand in front of a source of light, we will end up casting shadows on the digital copy and ruining it.
There are many composition types and rules, which we can follow to take interesting and fascinating images. However, in order to create a digital copy as an historical document, it is better to adopt a simple composition, placing the object in the centre of the frame. In addition, it is advisable to photograph or scan the object in front of a monochrome and neutral background (white, grey or black) for the viewer to focus on the object itself.
Sometimes, we need to process a digital copy to align the image, crop it, or improve its brightness and contrast. On the World Wide Web, there are many photo and image processing softwares and applications that we can use for free to improve our digital copies (even automatically). However, it is preferable not to apply filters on them. In order for our images to be useful in research and education as historical evidence, they need to be as true and accurate copies of the original objects as possible. In addition, it is preferable not to apply watermarks, signatures, or date and time stamps on the digital copies, since these elements alter their content, and discourage people from reusing them. The information that identifies a person, a collective or an institution as the primary source of a digital copy, and describes the time and place of its creation, can be written and published separately as documenting or descriptive information.
After the image processing, we can save the digital copy we created, in our mobile phone or personal computer. The best thing to do is to save the digital copy as a coloured image, with the highest resolution possible, in JPG or JPEG format. In addition, before sharing the copy on the World Wide Web, it is preferable to delete our personal data from the image file. Nowadays, photographic cameras, smartphones and other devices store information related to images known as EXIF data. Such information are for example the date, time and place of photo shooting or scanning, the type of the device that was used to create the digital copy, as well as the name and surname of the owner of the device as its creator. The process of deleting such information from an image file depends on the device used and its operating software. But, it is a very easy process, which can be performed with the use of simple instructions and tools that are available on the World Wide Web.
The documentation of a digital copy and its content (i.e. the material object that it depicts) is the process of: (a) recording some basic information about the object and its digital copy; and (b) narrating the story related to it. In order to contribute documentation of high quality to the digital collection Outcast Europe, it is useful to keep in mind the following:
Title of the object - digital copy
The title of an object and consequently, of its digital copy depends on the type of the object itself. For example, books, artworks and popular industrial products have specific titles or names — and most of the times, we can trace such information by doing a simple search on the World Wide Web. However, other types of objects, such as handmade creations, personal and familial photos, manuscripts and public documents (e.g. letters, postcards, private agreements, passports, etc.) don’t have specific titles that describe them. In these cases, we have to think of brief descriptive titles for them, taking into account the type of the object (e.g. diary, photo, ticket, etc.), its material (e.g. ivory comb), its usage (e.g. jewelry box), the culture of origin, or the era of its creation (e.g. Bulgarian costume, dowry agreement of the year 1900).
Creator / Manufacturer of the object
The creator or manufacturer of an object depends, once again, on the type of the object. Books, artworks, and popular industrial products have specific writers, creators, and manufacturers respectively — and most of the times, we can trace such information by doing a simple search on the World Wide Web. In the case of handmade creations, personal and familial photos, manuscripts and personal documents, the creators are specific persons, whom we might know or not. In any case, even if we know a creator (personally or otherwise), there is always the possibility that she/he wishes to remain anonymous. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration, and respect such preferences or requests for anonymity during the process of documentation, i.e. before publishing the creator’s identity.
Time and place of creation / manufacturing of the object
If we manage to trace the creator or manufacturer of an object, it’s easy to trace the time and place of its creation or production. Of course, sometimes it isn’t possible to identify the exact year, or the exact place of creation or production (e.g. 1902, Athens). But, even in these cases, it is possible to define the historical era or the geographical area (e.g. beginnings of the 20th century, Greece).
Provider of the object / digital copy
In the case of the digital collection Outcast Europe, the providers are the individuals and the collectives that contribute content to it. The providers of the objects and of their digital copies might be the same people or not. In any case, there is always the possibility of providers who wish to remain anonymous as well. Their preference for anonymity must also be respected when providing the digital copies and their documenting information — i.e. before submitting them to the digital collection.
*The providers’ personal data are not published on the Outcast Europe website.
Description of the object
The description of the object (which the digital copy depicts) presents information related to its form, usage, mode of production, content or interpretation — i.e. it includes all the information that characterise the object, and probably distinguish it from others. This description helps: (a) researchers and educators to evaluate if the object is useful to them as historical evidence, and (b) people with visual impairments to have better access to the digital collection.
Story of the object
In the case of the digital collection Outcast Europe, the narration of the story related to an object is the most important documenting information. Because it is these stories that make this collection an interesting source of information and knowledge for the phenomena of migration and enforced movement, not the objects themselves. However, if we want to contribute content to the digital collection Outcast Europe, we don’t need to have professional writing skills. Everyday, we tell many different stories, even in the context of our most simple, oral conversations with relatives, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. Therefore, we do have storytelling skills, and we can describe simply what makes an object so important to us or to the person who gave it to us, which memories it brings to mind, and how it got to belong to our possessions — just like we would narrate this story to a friend or a relative of ours.
Tone of voice
Whenever we publish information and stories on the World Wide Web, we can address many different people at the same time. But we can’t know for sure if they understand our writings and how they interpret them. Therefore, we can’t give them more information or clarifications to avoid or control any misunderstandings. If we want to contribute information and stories to the digital collection Outcast Europe, it is important to use a welcoming and polite tone of voice, and never use insulting and aggressive words or phrases. In addition, it is preferable to write short and clear statements, use active instead of passive voice, provide specific information, and avoid complex and unnecessary jargon.
Protection of personal data
Whenever we publish personal and familial stories on the World Wide Web, we can’t control who might read them, and how they might reuse them. Therefore, the best thing to do is to publish only the information we can share with everyone, i.e. the information that isn’t too personal or too sensitive. Additionally, it is important to protect anonymity -both our own and of others- even when we don’t consider it necessary. Lastly, whenever we publish objects and stories that were entrusted to us by our family members, friends or acquaintances, it is necessary to have their explicit -and preferably written- consent, in order to do so.
*The personal data that might be included in the stories of the objects are not published on the Outcast Europe website.
Every time we create a cultural work (e.g. photo, video, audio recording, text, etc.) we are automatically, but for a limited timeframe, the owners of the intellectual property rights of this work (i.e. of its copyright). As copyright owners, we can grant certain permissions, allowing others to reuse our work freely and legally for various purposes (research, educational, creative, even commercial). The granting of these permissions is a very simple process-statement, which consists of using the Creative Commons licenses — and it is worth noting that we can choose the suitable license easily and quickly with the help of the License Chooser. For the licensing of the content (digital copies of objects, stories and other information) contributed to the digital collection Outcast Europe, it is useful to keep in mind the following:
Proposed license for the Outcast Europe collection
In the spirit of open access to knowledge and culture, but with respect towards the European citizens who shared their objects and stories in the context of the homonymous project, Inter Alia has published the digital copies of these objects and their documenting information under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license, to allow their free and legal reuse for non-commercial, research and educational purposes.
Inter Alia suggests to all of us who wish to contribute content (digital copies of objects, stories and other information) to the digital collection Outcast Europe, to publish it under the terms of the same license — as long as the original objects don’t fall under copyright law, or copyright has expired. In case the original objects are copyrighted, we need to have the explicit -and preferably written- consent of the copyright owner(s) of the objects in order to contribute them to the collection (if we aren’t their creators and copyright owners). In addition, we need to be the copyright owners of the digital copies of the objects — meaning that we have to be the ones who created them. Otherwise, we need, once again, to have the explicit -and preferably written- consent of these copyright owner(s) as well.
Important note about the Creative Commons licenses
Creative Commons licences can’t be revoked. As soon as a cultural work (analogue, digitised or digital) is published under the terms of a Creative Commons licence, it can be reused freely and legally (under the terms of the licence) until the expiration of copyright. The inspirers of the Creative Commons licences included this provision into their legal text to ensure the “openness” of cultural content for the further development of knowledge and culture, and consequently, for the prosperity of societies.
By publishing the existing and contributed content of the digital collection Outcast Europe under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence, we contribute to the open movement, its vision, mission and goals. However, if we don’t want to grant reuse permissions for our own content, we don’t have to contribute images, information and stories to this digital collection. We can simply browse and explore the collection, which is equally important.
*In most counties of Europe, copyright protection lasts for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years.
In the context of the digital culture project “(Re)Collecting Outcast Europe”, Inter Alia wrote, translated and published a Practical Guide for Contributing Content to the Digital Collection Outcast Europe. This guide is for:
- people and collectives who own material objects related to personal and familial stories of migratory or refugee experiences, and who wish to contribute them to the digital collection Outcast Europe;
- educators in formal and non-formal education who wish to encourage their students or trainees to learn more about the phenomena of migration and enforced movement through tracing, digitising and documenting the objects and stories of their families, friends and acquaintances.
The Practical Guide for Contributing Content to the Digital Collection Outcast Europe is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0) license, and hence, it can be reused and revised freely and legally by everyone, according to their needs and purposes, as long as they give attribution to the creators and the source, and they license any revisions under the same terms.