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Digital preservation encompasses the theory and practice ensuring purposeful future use of digital resources. But how can one tell whether it has been effective or not? The evaluation of preservation efficacy has two dimensions: trustworthiness of managerial programs and systems; and successful use of managed resources. While the former has received extensive attention, the latter has been little investigated. This stems from an insufficiently broad conceptualization of the preservation enterprise, which should be viewed expansively as facilitating meaningful human communication across time and concomitant cultural distance. Communicological analysis leads to a semiotic- phenomenological model for preservation-enabled communication cognizant of the elusive nature of use, which is inherently contingent with respect to time, place, person, and purpose. Preservation success is positioned as an individual, rather than universal value, with a benchmark evaluation of situational verisimilitude, rather than absolute fidelity to an illusory canonical state and information experience. The proposed evaluative approach provides new conceptual clarity to preservation theory and practice, a more rigorous basis for illuminating the limits of preservation efficacy, and a more nuanced means of stating, measuring, and evaluating preservation intentions, expectations, and outcomes.
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