On a brief sojourn to New York City, I did what people do. I took a handful of pictures. One World Trade. Radio City Music Hall in the snow. Greenwich Village at night. Seventh avenue in the sunshine. And I doctored each of them. I doctored them and posted them. I chose the right patina, took time to select the one that made my experience look a little better than it was. Shadows were brightened, light was darkened a shade, streets were brought into sharper focus, corners were blurred. And people liked them.
Not long ago, the Google’s vice-president, Vint Cerf, warned that ‘bit rot’ – or “the process by which the mechanisms for accessing a digital file are lost, rending that file useless junk” – threatens to disappear much of what we place online, on local or distant servers. One day, all this stuff we post to the Internet will be irretrievable.
The fear that arises from Cerf’s warning and others like his is that there may come a time when the historical record goes somewhat blank. While there remain more official documents (though increasingly government reports and newspapers are migrating entirely online), our more personal stories, the ones that inform social histories, will be gone. E-mail has replaced letters. Word documents have replaced diaries. It is easy now to scroll through Instagram and immediately know what people are doing, wearing, and eating at any given moment, but without a preserved, physical copy of these pictures, will our grandchildren know the same things?Read More