Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Source: GIPHY
Source: GIPHY

Hi and hello again, my name is Alice Rogers. Not much has changed since I wrote my first introductory post on this blog; I still am a early-stage doctoral student in ethnomusicology, and I still work at Special Collections in Performing Arts here at University of Maryland. I study and have studied Appalachian folk music, protest music, blues, R&B, and soul. (This list roughly goes from oldest projects to newest). I’m looking forward to discussing some new and different issues in the Digital Preservation class!

I also still love to think and talk about the internet, and all of the amazing cultures that exist and are facilitated in digital spaces, particularly those related to video games, art, and music… and many times all three.

I’ve been thinking more about our impending-or-not digital dark age. I think there’s a few different potential digital dark ages, or ages from which data is lost somehow. As I mentioned in class, this is something that rings a bit hollow to me coming from Cerf, particularly because Google and other companies have the ability to prevent this– to attempt to stabilize file formats as much as possible, and implement more open source software/formats (therefore making the digital vellum concept he talks about more viable). I also think it’s worth mentioning that some of the “unreadable formats” mentioned in one of the videos are still readable: Amazon still is selling floppy disk drives, and the reviews indicate that they work at least through Windows 7 and 8.

I think the potential dark age raised by Lyons is worth considering.

“If we have any digital dark age, it will manifest, as has been the case in the past with other forms of information, as a silence within the archive, as a series of gaping holes where groups of individuals and communities are absent because there was no path into the archive for them…”

Lyons goes on to list other ways this could happen, but I think this is the pathway to a digital dark age that resonates most with me. In particular, I worry that some internet culture is seen as silly or insignificant, and also not in danger of disappearing. After all, old tweets have always been simple to dig up, so it’s easy to expect that Twitter (or any similar website that stores user-generated content) would continue to provide old data, or would give people an opportunity to download an archive in the event of a shutdown. But this isn’t always the case, and even if it is, it’s not always easy.

Luckily, a lot of people do see the significance of internet culture, and there are initiatives to preserve it. Still, I think that file formats are not our greatest worry here– it is making sure that things are seen as worthy of archiving at all, that people understand that there is some urgency, and that preservation tools are both widely available and widely known.

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