After reading the article “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era”, by Roy Rosenzweig, I felt that the preservation of our digital past (in the form of web pages, photos, email messages, blog posts, etc) seems to be quite futile. In his article, Rosenzweig explains how difficult it is to preserve our digital past. Though Rosenzweig emphasizes that “the social, economic, legal, and organizational problems” are what makes digital preservation very challenging, he also points out that the ways we go about digital preservation can be problematic. Digital preservation seems like a futile endeavour due to the nature of technology. According to the Library of Congress’ website on Personal Archiving , technology has a short lifespan and is constantly changing. Most technology changes for the good, like increased speed, memory, or ease of use. But in terms of digital preservation, changes in technology can be bad, like for hardware, software, file types, and accessibility.
Despite these hindrances, Rosenzweig does mention some possible solutions to the digital preservation problem:
1) Preserving old technology so the original data can be accessed
2) Migrate or convert data so it can be accessed on newer technology
3) Use an emulator it access data (where older data can be accessed on newer technology that acts like older technology)
Unfortunately, Rosenzweig did find some troubles with these preservation techniques:
- Preserving old technology can come at a cost if it becomes broken and has no replacement parts
- There is a risk for data corruption with migration or loss in quality when converting data to new technology
- Depending on how well it is made, there is a chance for emulators to not be able to access the data exactly like the original
Though these techniques may seem unreliable to use in preserving our digital past, they are currently some of the best ways to help keep our digital past alive. I don’t know if this was considered before, but has it been thought to create a file type or system that can be backwards-compatible with existing and future technology? Why convert or migrate old data to work on new technology, and not just make new technology compatible to a standardize file type or system that old data can be accessed on? Similar to how bitmap and midi files can still be accessed by newer technology today, I can imagine a standardize file type/system created solely for the preservation of data that can be accessed by current and future technologies. I understand that a lot of funding and research may be needed for this to become possible, but having the ability to access data from our past on one file type outweighs having to put data at risk of corruption by migrating or converting it on new technology every few years or so.
With this said, I do not see digital preservation as a futile endeavour. With our digital past still at a young age, it will only be a matter of time before we find the best way to preserve our digital past for future generations.