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digital object


n. ~ A unit of information that includes properties (attributes or characteristics of the object) and may also include methods (means of performing operations on the object).


The concept of digital object comes from object-oriented programming. Objects typically include properties and methods. Objects may belong to classes and inherit properties and methods from a parent class. Similarly, an object may have child objects that inherit its properties and methods.

Digital objects are an abstraction that can refer to any type of information. The object may be simple or complex, ranging from values used in databases to graphics and sounds. An object called name may include properties such as title, first name, and last name, as well as methods for returning the value of the name in natural language or inverted order. An object called graphic may include properties that define an image, such as dimensions, color scale, and encoding scheme and might include methods that make that image data available at different resolutions.

Objects are not necessarily self-contained. For example, a graphics object may require an external piece of software to render the image.

In addition to the data that makes up the fundamental content, the object often includes metadata that describes the resource in a manner that supports administration, access, or preservation.

(CDL Metadata 2001, p. 2) Something (e.g., an image, an audio recording, a text document) that has been digitally encoded and integrated with metadata to support discovery, use, and storage of those objects. ¶ It should be noted that there is an important distinction between digital objects (e.g., an encoded text document or a digitized image) and the digital collections (e.g., the Online Archive of California) to which they belong. The distinction between digital objects and digital collections is analogous to the distinction between a collection of works by Arthur Conan Doyle and a particular copy of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Continuing the analogy, this document would describe standards for the description, structure and content of the digital Hound. This document, however, would be silent on how to represent the fact that A Study in Scarlet was also part of the collection.
(InterPARES2, p. 3) Clifford Lynch, director of the Coalition for Networked Information, describes experiential digital objects as objects whose essence goes beyond the bits that constitute the object to incorporate the behavior of the rendering system, or at least the interaction between the object and the rendering system.