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What if This is the Stuff That Lasts?

July 30, 2012

Why do we spend time doing this sort of thing? Why would a person commit time week in, week out, to the process of blogging, patiently writing short pieces and editing photos so that they can be shared with anyone who might be interested, out there in the ether somewhere?

I suspect that there are many different reasons: maybe you find it a diversion, maybe you hope to develop an audience or market for your talents or products, maybe you just like connecting and communicating with other people. Regardless of your reasons, have you thought about how permanent this might or might not be?

If we talk about the permanence of blog posts, we tend to err on the side of worrying about losing these things. We hear about servers that crash, about data being lost forever, and I know of people who patiently archive everything they produce (yes, I should do that too, and I will . . . when I have the time . . . ).

But is it possible that the permanence of internet content might go the other way? Given the endlessly expanding storage capacity of computer networks, is there some probability that anything we post in this medium might still be available to the world in 50 years, or 100 years, or 1000 years? Is there any chance that the Internet will become like the great library of Alexandria, and that people in a strange far distant future will be able to read the words I am banging out right now?

That is a frightening thought. Being a scientist, there are things I write with the hope that they will be of interest or use to future generations: papers about how fossil corals grew, or the fossil record of jellyfish, or the description of a giant trilobite. Those papers can take many months to prepare, with each word considered and re-considered, each reference checked and re-checked. But what if it turns out that those things have no staying power and are lost, while these little random scrawls are my lasting legacy? Since none of us can predict the future, should we ponder and re-write every piece we post here?

Nah. Let’s just keep throwing stuff at this virtual wall, and see what sticks.

© Graham Young, 2012

The graffiti are courtesy of the folks who have left their marks on the Grand Rapids Uplands and Cormorant Hill roadcuts.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. settleandchase permalink
    July 31, 2012 8:58 am

    Very thought provoking..images and words..

  2. David Greenwood permalink
    July 31, 2012 9:08 pm

    There is Roman graffitti in some ruins in Italy (of course) and other parts of the former Roman Empire, including England. I would think the poor stone-mason, servant, soldier or whomever scrawled ‘Maximus was here’ or something less polite had no idea that their words would feature in a learned article in an Archaeological journal … or someone’s blog.

    As we head ever more rapidly into a digital age where all our words and images are preserved in electronic form, here and there across the net, some have asked; ‘will future generations be able to read those words?’ Will PDFs, html5, Word.Docx, and other formats be readable? I have floppy discs (yes …) with files on them I can no longer open because they represent extinct software, or versions of extant software so old the latest Office suite or Acrobat Reader can’t open them. Its a bit like older media like microfilm; it was the data-compression of its age. But no one makes microfiche readers anymore, and libraries etc are slowly turfing them. ‘It’ll all be gigitized!’ is the clarion cry. Perhaps. But whereas the graffitti in Graham’s images, and those of the Romans I spoke of, remain understandable decades and even millenia later, will our digital ponderings remain decipherable to bloggers a 1000 years hence?

    So … in essence Graham, a thought provoking blog. And me, I’m off to Australia for 4 weeks.

    • David Greenwood permalink
      July 31, 2012 9:09 pm

      That should read ‘digitized’ not gigitized … that’ll teach me to type without my glasses on!

    • Graham permalink*
      August 1, 2012 4:12 pm

      David, thank you very much for your comment. I hope you enjoy the Australian trip!

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