Once again, Dan Cohen uses math to build an argument about digital libraries (see The Last Digit of Pi).
In Digital Ephemera and the Calculus of Importance, Cohen uses computational statistician William Press’ article “Strong Profiling is Not Mathematically Optimal for Discovering Rare Malfeasors” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009) to explain why the Library of Congress’ decision to acquire Twitter archives is a smart move:
Although couched in the language of crime prevention, what Press is really talking about is the calculus of importance. As Press himself notes, “The idea of sampling by square-root probabilities is quite general and can have many other applications.”
As it turns out, the calculus of importance is the same for the Transportation Security Administration and for the Library of Congress. Press’s conclusions apply directly to the archivist’s dilemma of how to spend limited resources on saving objects in a digital age.
If Dan Cohen’s blog is not already on your reading list, it should be.