From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
- this is a long rant, and philosophical, too, so you might just as well
leave it, if you are not so inclined. You were warned.
David Seubert, Andy Kolovos and several others have said all the good and
sadly correct things. However we must all realize what a shift in paradigm
For centuries, well perhaps millenia, we have been accustomed to protecting
physical items, and if we did that we would still have our cake. Restoration
was previously a discipline when it was more like repair of function and
which destroyed all information that we were not aware of at the time. So
many of the items we have stored are mere shells of what they were, almost
like a taxidermically treated bird: only the outside has any connection to
the original, if we are lucky also some bones are preserved, because they
could stand the abuse of time and because we can perceive them with unaided
senses (or we can dig deeper by means of instruments). Things had to have
inherent qualities to survive without attention.
Re-directing our efforts to creating effigies of what we have "alive" today
may not be so bad - everybody can understand that a format change may be
necessary, the so-called secondary source. But the fact that this new format
will not be permanent or at least will not require attention for a long time
if we choose wisely, that really goes against the grain.
Material that is born digital will always retain its quality as long as
transparent storage is used. However the fact that we cannot choose to invest
(in high quality and durability) to preserve it but we have to have
continuous expenditure (migration, refresh, call it what you like) is still
against the grain. We simply do not have sufficient trust that the future
will preserve what we have been working with. At least I do not. And that
degrades our endeavours - we have no idea whether our efforts will be worth
our while in, say, mere 20 years time. Media and systems we have known (until
the cheapo digital came along) have been able to survive on their own for
longer than that.
I do not see a future that is able to establish a coordinated effort to store
what is born digital for the benefit of future users. There will be family
trust owned repositories that will survive, much like big country estates
survive, because there are craftsmen and gardeners, such families will be
sufficiently focussed and can afford it. For the rest of us there will only
be what remains after governments have given up maintaining our history. We
will be much more manageable as populations.
While live real-time culture proliferates due to the digital revolution I
think that much too little attention has been given to the erosion ("bit by
bit", as I once wrote in the IASA Journal) of our history. We shall all
become "instant on", but forgotten the next day. Nobody will know or be able
to document if we indeed had our 15 minutes of fame. I really think we have
lost our chance to preserve history by not requesting - louder and louder -
that we are given systems that will be able to maintain their usefulness
unattended (!) for a minimum of 100 years. That would have permitted
investment - so beloved by funders - rather than mere expenditure.
I am very much looking forward to reading Douglas Hofstadter's new book "I am
a Strange Loop", which according to an interview with him in New Scientist
(10 March 2007) may bring me to terms with our accelerating loss of eternity;
for 'eternity' read 'historical perspective'.
In the long term my specialization, which is the retrieval of sounds from
analogue recordings, using knowledge about how they were created in the first
place, will be like knowing about historical enbalming and equally useful.
And that goes for quite a number of people on this list.
Can anybody cheer me up?