The Age of Communication

21 04 2009

When history looks back in the last two decades, what label will they stick on it? My guess is, well, what I just used as an LJ post title.

This isn’t specifically about the Internet. Before it hit the mainstream there were BBSes; after it, text messaging and advanced cellphones. It’s not strictly about information, in the media-distribution sort of way or the encyclopedia sort of way. It’s more about a radical shift in the interconnectedness of people over a very short period of history, with everything from the inane to the deep becoming a matter of public record through massively linked communication networks.

tl;dr, Venice had painting. We have blogging. On my blog alone I have lengthy diatribes, a list of recent music tracks I’ve listened to, my game playing history, and other crazy in-roads from the communications space into the meatspace. And, of course, my Twitter feed.

I’ve gotten into a groove with Twitter now. I’d resisted for a long time, just not seeing the point, but I’ve come to an understanding with it — when I have a brief, off the top of my head thing to share, I twitter it. When I have a subject I want to discuss in more depth and collect feedback, I blog it. Different tools for different purposes. Both are fine rapid communications systems I can use to keep track of my own scrambled brains, even when while working on other tasks. Very handy indeed.

Of course, if we’re in an Age of Communication, we need to preserve that — and here today, gone tomorrow online media are notoriously bad at that. I have a backup program (which I really need to run more often) for LiveJournal, mostly because I don’t trust Six Apart to not go insolvent on me, but is there one for Twitter? Or should I not bother, since it’s meant to be transient info, only relevant for a day or two at best?

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5 responses

21 04 2009
pyromaniac_ks

I tend not to be too bothered about permanence, myself. In a hundred years we’ll both be dead, and noone is likely to remember or care.
If I think I have created something that merits preserving, I’ll take steps to make it last. Blogging isn’t that. Maybe if I ever get around to writing something or completing a comic or something.
I admit, you’re ahead of me here in that you have a wide selection of excellent fiction, both original and fan, plus various games and content created for such, which are genuinely worth saving.
Twitter and LJ are a social medium though, and therefore pretty much transient by their very nature. It’s highly unlikely that people are going to care about, to pick two recent examples at random, your having gotten tells from people who don’t read instructions, or your thoughts on CoH I14 launch in five years time.

21 04 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah, but the same could have been said in their time about various historical figures writing letters back and forth to friends. Those letters became quite important to preserve a hundred, two hundred years down the road — even the silliest ones. My favorite being this one.
Even putting celebrity aside, because ye gads I can’t claim to be THAT important by any definition, think of letters your grandparents might have written, or the journals of an ancestor. These are things that will matter to your family at some point. Preservation of digital photos, digital writing, etc. is no less important than preservation of paper.

21 04 2009
andrew_jp

I’ve actually seen people (Tycho from Penny Arcade, I believe) refer to the permanence of media in the Age of Communication, which makes a certain amount of sense. How many books and films have been lost forever? Whereas everything on the Internet gets Google cached, archived by the Wayback Machine, or distributed over P2P and BitTorrent forever and ever.

21 04 2009
jengagne

There’s a TON of material posted now, not a lot of it historically valuable except perhaps to sociologists and (later) digital archaeologists.
That said, I definitely agree; I look at it more in terms of being interesting to our descendants. I have Grandma’s journal from the year I was born, for example. It’s more Twitter-style than LJ-style but I still love it.
I often wish I had at least some more first-person information about previous generations of our family. I love that family history Mom did, but I wish I could go back and ask: “What would you want us to know about you?”
In terms of modern blogging? Of course, as Mom pointed out, someday Buglet will be seeing my blog. Including our discussion of cannibalizing her, my naughty icons, etc.
But frankly I just can’t see it as THAT bad of a thing for a kid… particularly one who’s old enough to have encountered it before, and have a sense of context. I already do as much token internet-fronting as I’m inclined to do.
(Wow, I just used the word “fronting” in a non-sarcastic way for the first time eVAR)

21 04 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Forever and ever… until the obsolesce of that particular technology takes hold.
I cite my LJ icon as an example. Agrippa (a book of the dead) is an art project by William Gibson and Dennis Ashbaugh about the fading of memories, and the recording of them through writing and photography.
The actual book’s textual content was a poem in the form of a floppy disk, which when viewed, self-destructed as you viewed it. All you’d get out of the experience was your memories; the written copy would fade. (The photographs in the book were also supposed to start fading quickly once exposed to air, but they couldn’t achieve the effect.)
The funny part now is that people can’t read the poem not because of the self destruct feature, but because it was built for a type of Mac which isn’t produced anymore. In 17 years since it was published, it’s become a digital work nobody can view without using a combination of modern data recovery and obsolete technology. I was watching a bootleg video (now in quicktime format) of the unveiling ceremony for the work, and they even knew then “There will come a time when technology moves on and this is lost as a result.” And with computers, that’s always sooner than you think.
In a hundreds years time, is Google’s cache and the wayback machine really going to be as immortal as believed? In the here and now, things are stored in a redundant manner. But in time, all things fade, unless you work to preserve them.

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