The Internet as a Cultural and Historical Archive

Please. They’ll clearly have a better system than today’s “digital clarity” to look at cooches with. They’ll have VR helmets that put them in the position of the paparazzi who took the photo for “true” clarity goodness. Once they find someone with an old SATA card to get the HD video off and converted.

Yeah, that was the third one I was thinking of.

Which company was it that stored their backed up data in the other World Trade Center tower? Heh.

But I’m more just playing devil’s advocate here; I find it hard to believe that our data is not better protected now. If anything, so much of it is much more widely printed out and dispersed that one disaster is unlikely to completely erase something. Even if the Met burns down we at least have photographic evidence of virtually everything in there; compare that to say Nike of Samothrace, whose face is forever gone.

One more thing though–one thing that bothers me is the dumbing down of fidelity. This is especially true with music, where most people just have relatively lo-fi (128k) recordings nowadays.

That, and volume. The sheer volume of information being unintentionally archived for “ever” compared to the past. It used to be that only the very few could leave a lasting mark upon the world. Now, as Google trawls MySpace daily and creates its cache, the lives of the masses, both sordid and sublime, are being immortalized.

Have you ever used Google Groups to check out your old Usenet postings? That’s the kind of thing that amazes me and leads me to believe that future social scientists are going to have a field day with this stuff. The challenge will be separating the wheat from the chaff, as opposed to simply locating primary sources.

The stupid one? :) We’ve got all kinds of rules/policies for disaster recovery/planning, including how far away data needs to be to be considered “off-site”. I think we’re covered for any circumstance save for something that would destroy about a 20 mile radius around the campus

This is all still so new, though. We’re talking about information storage systems that are, at best, what… five years old? Ten years? I’m sure that at any given point in history, information from the past 50-100 years was readily available and secure. It’s when decades turn to centuries that the real test of longevity and security begins.

Apart from the challenge of actuallu accessing old data, this must be the biggest problem. Information overload.

There are times in humanity we know next to nothing because they were piss poor at writing stuff down and we only have their petrified garbage to sift through - when the historians of 2206 wants to know what ordinary everyday life was like in 2006 they’ll have millions of pages of cat pictures (Ooh, cat worshippers) and boobies to sift through only to gain the impression that we all sold PS3s on ebay and talked about our Wii.

Just like the format drift where an unbroken chain of backup from format to format needs to exists, there need to be some sort of record about what the important stuff is. If a future scientist didn’t have that and just got a complete backup of the internet anno 2006 dumped in his lab, he’d spend centuries sifting through mindless drivel before getting a picture about anything important.

I’d probably just get to the cat pictures and boobies and call it good.

But isnt that the value of the internet? Previous history has always edited out the equivalent of cat pictures and boobies, because only the rich and important had access to permanent methods of storage, or were the only historical figures considered worth writing about. This is a democratisation of history, maaan! What were the equivalent of cat pictures and boobies in 1495? I bet its hard to know precisely because no-one bothered to save it. It was so everyday and uncultured. Maybe it was cat pictures and boobies.

I sometimes daydream about what future historians would think if all they had to go on about the 20th century were the things in my house (or my car, my office, etc…). For awhile my turtle lived in my guest room, so of course I imagined this being interpreted as, “ah yes, turtles were held in high esteem in the early 21st century. As high as a family member, as evidenced by the fact that they were regulary given their own rooms in a family’s home.”

Which of course makes me wonder how many times historians have misunderstood some small shred of evidence.

That is patently false. There are still “plenty” of erotic works from way back then, although I’d be hard pressed to conjure up a name for you because, honestly, I figured it wasn’t worth remembering the name of the stuff. That said, naughty books from 1495 do indeed still exist!

Oh, I didn’t mean erotica specifically, I just meant, everyday random stuff that average working-class people found entertaining and shared with each other. Whether it was erotica or not (I don’t think cute cat pictures are erotica, are they??!) I’m assuming it was mostly verbal and not written or pictorial, since I’m guessing many average people couldn’t read or write in 1495.