Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An old soul in a web 2.0 world

First and foremost, I want to preface this by saying that I love technology. I love what it offers society and its ability to open so many doors for an individual. Anybody, professional or personal, who purposefully shuns the technology that is at their disposal is doing themselves - and in many cases, their patrons - a great disservice. However, I might love technology, but I would be lying if I didn't say that I don't trust it either.
I am of the generation that is stuck right in the middle of two worlds - the technology generation and the generation of filing cabinets, notebooks and yes - even carbon copies. It was Herman Hesse who, when writing about his iconic character Steppenwolf wrote, "Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence." Now, I am not comparing myself to that of the character of Harry Haller, nor am I saying that the difference in these two ages have to be as hopeless sounding as Hesse writes of. But I am making a connection of there being a direct feeling of trepidation and misgiving between the two sides.
While being taught to use computers in school by playing "Oregon Trail" on an 8 in floppy disc, I was also still using my father's typewriter to write papers in my make believe games of being Lois Lane. I am a student studying to be an archivist and thus my dilemma takes flight:
How will we keep what is being produced on blogs, wikis or anything else that is Web 2.0? Is there such a thing as a true archived materials in this format? And I don't mean just out-of-date articles that have been stuffed somewhere in an electronic folder. I am talking about materials that can be viewed centuries from now by generations not yet lived. It scares me to think what brilliant works have been lost because their only existence is on pieces of outdated technologies that cannot be tapped into anymore. There are some truly genius works being written on blogs and online articles. Where will all that be if the server is destroyed, the operator or controller decides that enough is enough, or if the materials were never migrated to the next technological advancement?
All I can think of is what if Herman Hesse wrote his thoughts on a blog? Or Nietzsche? Or Goethe? Is it possible that an entire philosophy of a culture in a generation is being lost because it was created on a format that is so fleeting?
I am in no way meaning to sound like an alarmist, or someone who is trying to be melodramatic...but it really got me to thinking about the flip side of technology - the risk of losing a generation of work when the technology becomes obsolete so quickly.


Blogger Kim said...

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7:44 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I don't think you are being an alarmist - it's a valid fear. We have videotapes of the kids when they were little that are too ruined by time to see. It's sad.

It is an interesting point about the information on blogs, wikis, etc perhaps being lost over time and the need to preserve these works. Hopefully there will be a way to do this without having to make judgement calls about what is "worth" preserving and what is not. Archeologists learn a great deal about societies by examining everything, including the "garbage".

On another note, being from the generation of carbon copies...there was this thing in schools called "The Ditto Machine" that made copies with this blue ink that had the BEST smell. All the kids wanted those fresh dittos. Thanks for the flashback!

7:44 PM

7:46 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

Your absolutely right. I think that the preservation of our technological culture is a problem. I'm not sure that in 10 years, let alone 100 years from now that the information that's available on the internet right now will still be there, or even be archived somewhere for future generations to study.

This piece you've posted reminds me of a paper I wrote as an undergrad anthropology student. We had to pretend we were future archeologists sent to Earth to study ancient humans (from the present) and write about what types of artifacts we find and how they may have been used.

3:44 PM  

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