One of the things I like about this blog is that it captures my thinking as a snapshot in time and if were to look back, I can see how it has moved on, changed, evolved. In reality, I rarely go back over old posts in any kind of systematic way, but it's kind of comforting to know that they're there. But will they always be?
Perhaps it's not such a dumb question ( I happen to be seeing the guy that runs Sixapart this week so maybe I'll ask him ;)). In this piece for WORD, Steve Bowbrick talks about the relative fragility of digital storage pointing out that in the 50 years or so since computers have been around we already have whole streams of data sat on floppy discs, magnetic tapes or wheelie-bin size hard drives, which are rapidly becoming innaccessible or are already lost forever. Quite a thought when you think how much of our lives are distributed around the web sat on somebody else's servers. What happens if Flickr is shut down? What will today look like to tommorrow's information archaeologists?
Contrast this relatively casual approach to data storage with the British Library whose collection of every item published in the UK grows by some 12.5Km of shelf space every year. So fast in fact that they're now building a huge new warehouse to handle the overflow, capable of storing another 7 million items in 262 linear kilometres of automated, low-oxygen, high-density storage.
OK. So maybe we don't need to store everything. But who gets to decide what we keep and what we lose? And how do we decide what forms of data are the most important for future generations to understand how we live our lives today? As we all become more connected, more and more of our modern culture is wrapped up in communications that rapidly become innaccessible – the kind of narrative that is of-the-moment, at one time there and the next gone forever (what I think Grant called 'phatic communication'). Think of all the old tweets, the IM messages, the Blips, the text messages. Think about the picture that they could paint of how we live.
Which makes projects like this one, rather interesting. Photographer Kelly Shimoda has photographed illuminated text messages over a couple of years and posted them online. Even without their situational context they seem to tell a story of sorts that is in turns funny, strange, cute, tragic. Unexpectedly good.