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Digital Artifact

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Written By John H. Coleman, Ph.D. For comments, contact:

Concise Definition

A digital artifact is any combination of professional data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (DIKW Pyramid) [1] expressed in digital form and exchanged within a digital ecosystem.

The Concept

A digital artifact is any combination of professional data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (DIKW) expressed in digital form and exchanged within a digital ecosystem. During an exchange, the originator’s digital form of DIKW remains intact and is interpretable by the recipient. Professionals and tradespersons create digital artifacts when they produce DIKW in, or convert items to, digital forms with the aid of digital technologies. The digital artifact encodes data, behaviors, attributes, or properties that software applications use to retrieve and display the digital forms of professional DIKW.


Many professional disciplines create, store, and display a variety of their DIKW to share with large numbers of stakeholders by way of numerous digital technologies. Thus, there are uncountable ways to express the unique combinations of multidisciplinary DIKW, stakeholders’ information needs, and digital technologies. To classify the digital expressions of professional DIKW, the Digital Engineering Community develop the concept of a Digital Artifact as the universal set of digital forms that practitioners use to express their thoughts. As a subset, there are engineering digital artifacts that are relevant and useful in conveying engineering DIKW in digital forms. Therefore, a unique combination of engineering DIKW expressed in digital form is an engineering digital artifact.


To distinguish the digital artifact from raw digital data with no context, the Digital Engineering Community established a set of characteristics to classify digital data as a digital artifact. The characteristics of a digital artifact are as follows:

  • Resides in a digital device or system
  • Human interpretable
  • Executable and computational
  • Has metadata
  • Interrelated to other digital artifacts
  • Complies with a set of conventions & standards
  • Serves a functional purpose for stakeholders
  • Contains data, information, knowledge or wisdom

Common Usage

  • The system engineers gave the product design engineers access to their finite set of digital artifacts for the X-1 subassembly’s parametric, behavioral, and functional characteristics.
  • I need a set of digital artifacts that describes how the As-Designed rubber tire’s pressure and failure mechanism will respond in multi-terrain and multi-environmental conditions.
  • The manufacturer has digital artifacts that show the geometry and metrology of all the parts it sampled from the production line.


A digital artifact may be…

  • descriptive model elements,
  • database records,
  • query records,
  • unstructured text fields,
  • software modules,
  • geometric primitives,
  • video frames,
  • audio frames,
  • or any combination.

Similar concepts and definitions:

Digital Artifact, as stated by the Defense Acquisition University’s Glossary Website, describes the concept as follows:

  • “An artifact produced within, or generated from, the digital engineering ecosystem. These artifacts provide data for alternative views to visualize, communicate, and deliver data, information, and knowledge to stakeholders” [2].

Digital Entity as stated on Society of American Archivists on the Defined Term Website describes the concept as follows:

  • “Digital Entities are highly abstract representations of concepts. They may be considered to embody more than information because the entity indicates how the data elements that form the information (attributes) relate to one another and how the information as a whole relates to a larger information environment. Digital entities are often used to represent digital objects in models, and some software packages automatically map entities to object-oriented maps” [3].

Digital Object as stated on Society of American Archivists’ website titled “Defined Term” describes the concept as follows:

  • 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. … Objects are not necessarily self-contained” [3].

Digital Asset as defined by the Technopedia website titled “Digital Asset” describes the concept as follows:

  • “A digital asset is any text or media that is formatted into a binary source and includes the right to use it; digital files that do not include this right are not considered digital assets. Digital assets are categorized into images and multimedia, called media assets, and textual content” [4].

Digital Information Content Asset as defined by ISO/IEC 19770-1:2017 Information technology – IT asset management – Part 1: IT asset management systems–Requirements, 3.18 describes the topic as follows:

  • “A digital asset with information content. Example: Documents, audio, video, graphics, databases, free-standing dictionaries, collections of standards in digital form, media collections, and credit agency rating information Note: Often licensed, but not considered to be software. IT asset management can include management of these assets for license compliance, but excludes management of the content [5].“


[1], “DIKW pyramid,” Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 July 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 5 September 2018].

[2] ODSAD(SE), Office of Deputy Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, “Defense Acquisition Glossary,” Defense Acquisition University, 28 September 2007. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22 May 2018].

[3] R. Pearce-Moses, “A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology,” The Society of American Archivists, 2005. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 25 July 2018].

[4] Techopedia™, “Techopedia Dictionary: Digital Asset,” Techopedia™ Inc., 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 August 2018].

[5] ISO/IEC 19770-1:2017, “Software and systems Engineering vocabulary (SE VOCAB),” IEEE, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://sev_display/,,SSL+search.action;jsessionid=90cf2cf7de0767815980908361c1. [Accessed 7 January 2019].

Reviewer Comments

Reviewer Name Reviewer Org Reviewer Email Reviewer Comment Author Adjudication
Name Organization [email protected] Notes Accept, Reject, Accept w/ Mod
mbse/digital_artifact.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/07 11:17 by jcoleman