Glossary of Terms

3D Model

In 3D computer graphics, 3D modelling is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any surface of an object (either inanimate or living) in three-dimensions via specialised software. The result is called a 3D model. Someone who works with 3D models may be referred to as a 3D artist. 3D models can be displayed as a two-dimensional image through a process called ‘3D rendering’ or used in a virtual reality computer simulation. The model can also be physically created using 3D printing devices.


The term born-digital refers to materials that originate in a digital form. This is in contrast to digital scanning or reformatting, which is the process by which ‘real world’ physical objects become digital; as in the case of digital files created by scanning physical paper records.  Examples of born-digital objects include a drawing made on an iPad or a virtual reality experience. Other terms for born-digital include natively digital, digital-first, and digital-exclusive.

Data degradation

Data degradation is a term used to describe the corruption of digital data. The phenomenon is also known as data decay, data rot or bit rot.

Data degradation can result from the decay of the equipment used to store data. There is no singular cause to data degradation. In some instances, data is lost during the transfer of data from one device to another. At other times, poor storage and upkeep of equipment may lead directly to the degradation of data. Examples of this include storing CD-R and DVD-R discs in warm, sun filled rooms. A way to stop this happening would be to store the discs in a dark, cool, low humidity location.

Digital age

The Digital Age, also referred to as the Information Age, is the time period that commenced in the 1970s and which is characterised by the rapid shift from traditional industry to an economy based on information technology. It is the period in history which the use of digital technology became prevalent, beginning in earnest with the widespread use of the internet.

Digital art

The term digital artist is generally used to describe an artist who makes use of digital technologies in the production of art. A range of names has been used to describe digital art including computer art and multimedia art. Digital art is sometimes categorised along with other forms of art and described as new media art. Digital art may be used to describe painting, drawing, sculpture and music/sound art, made using technology. The artwork may also be made by artificial intelligence programmed by an artist. Art made to exist entirely online as a website or a series of memes/GIF’s (see GIF) can be referred to as digital art.

Digital artefact

In anthropology and archaeology, a digital artefact is an artefact that is of a digital nature or creation. For example, a GIF is such an artefact. A digital artefact can be formed from a variety of content types including text, coding, audio, video, image, animation or a combination of several different types of content.

In information science, however, a digital artefact is any undesired or unintended change in data that has been introduced into a digital process by an involved technique and/or technology.

Digital dark age 

Digital dark age refers to a lack or absence of historical information in the digital age (see Digital age) as a direct result of outdated file formats, software, or hardware that has become corrupt, scarce, or inaccessible as technologies evolve and data decays. It may prove difficult or impossible to retrieve electronic and multimedia data, because they have been recorded in an obsolete and obscure file format, or on an obsolete physical medium, for example, floppy disks. The name derives from the term Dark Ages in the sense that there could be a relative lack of records in the digital age, as documents are transferred to digital formats and original copies are lost.

Digital dependency

Digital dependency is a broad software engineering term which refers to a piece of software being reliant upon another piece of software/hardware, to function. In software engineering, coupling or dependency is the degree to which each program module relies on each one of the other modules to correctly work.

Digital dependency may also refer to the growing dependency on digital systems and processes to conduct everyday tasks such as access to money or buying food.

Digital permanence

Digital permanence addresses the history and development of digital storage techniques. Digital data can be stored on a variety of digital media/platforms therefore, when assessing the expected lifetime of any digital data, it is essential to consider each unique form of storage. The digital permanence of any data may be affected or influenced by a range of known and unknown factors.

Ensuring digital permanence requires asking questions such as ‘Will this file still be accessible in 100 years? If not, how can that be achieved?’ or ‘What happens if this digital data is lost or damaged?’ It is often a mix of ensuring the data itself can be retained on a particular form of equipment and putting measures in place to ensure that the technology remains viable, useable or accessible.

Digital preservation

The act, process, or result of preserving something which exists digitally. This may refer to a digital version of a real object or a born-digital object (see Born-Digital). Digital preservation may also refer to efforts to keep digital assets complete or free from damage or decay in order to prevent permanent spoilage or loss. The digital assets which are preserved usually have some value either monetary, sentimental or cultural. As with all preservation, digital preservation is concerned with making something available for the future. There are specialist librarians and archivists who work to preserve digital data.

Digital scans (stylised)

A digital scan is a digital representation (version) of a ‘real-world’ object or document. Digital scans are created using an electronic device (digital scanner) which generates a digital version of the original. The word stylised references the influence of an artist in using artistic forms and conventions to create effects, therefore it could be assumed that a stylised digital scan has been created to reflect the wishes of the artist. A stylised digital scan may not end up being exactly the same as the ‘real-world’ object that has been scanned.


The Graphics Interchange Format (GIF. Pronounced “gif” or “jiff”) is a format for digital images, or series of images, which is often used to create short animated images or videos online.  


Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. The word is made up of the following meanings: ‘photo’ – light, ‘gram’ – drawing, and ‘metry’ – measurement. (Measurements of light to make drawings).

The input to photogrammetry is photographs, and the output is typically a map, a drawing, a measurement, or a 3D model of some real-world object or scene. Many of the maps we use today are created with photogrammetry and photographs taken from aircraft.

Photogrammetry appeared in the middle of the 19th century, almost simultaneously with the appearance of photography itself. There are many variants of photogrammetry.


To represent or depict artistically. When referencing digital rendering: to process (an outline image) using colour and shading in order to make it appear solid and three-dimensional.

Texture mapping

Texture mapping is a method for creating surface texture, detail or colour information on a computer-generated graphic or 3D model. A texture map is an image applied (mapped) to the surface of a digital shape or polygon. The process is akin to applying patterned paper to a white box. The original technique was pioneered by Edwin Catmull in 1974. In recent years there has been a rapid expansion in the techniques of texture mapping which have made it possible to achieve near-photorealistic images that are able to be interacted with in real time.

Virtual 3D environment

Virtual 3D environments are often referred to as virtual reality or interactive 3D experiences. The environments often reference real life however there are few limitations to what can be created by those who design them. Much like the physical world, this type of virtual world allows interaction with other (networked) users as well as with digital artefacts (see Digital Artefact).

Virtual reality

Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of three-dimensional images or environments. Virtual reality objects and environments can often be interacted with in seemingly real or physical ways through the use of smart phones and tablet devices as well as specialised electronic equipment, such as a headset, a handheld controller or gloves fitted with sensors.