Austere Posterity

I had a girlfriend once; years ago. She was studying history when we got together first. While driving home one day, she started talking about the impact that email is having on recorded history. We had this discussion when people were almost exclusively using Hotmail as their email provider, and were just starting to use their university email accounts on their resumes.

Right now, I wish I had an email record of the conversation, because I’d rather that than rely on my memory. If I remember correctly, the conversation centred on what will happen in the future when historians want to learn about people from the past without letters and written records? You see, the problem is simple: people can delete emails, so how are we going to know what they said to other people?

This is my iPhone. It helps me get through my days.
This is an iPhone-Selfie. This is my iPhone. It helps me get through my days.

This blog is really not very different. I can erase all of the content in one fell swoop, and ne’er would nobody be the wiser. So, when I was thinking about blogging more this year, I started thinking about why I want to blog more. The simple truth is that I’m a little bit of a vain person – I like writing about my own shit and having people read about it. Even in person, I often catch myself talking about myself. And, well, I can talk a lot.

I have another problem, too. How do I properly archive the content from my previous blog? Do I print off the material and store it somewhere? Do I just let it sit on the internet? I have no idea.

Anyway, the second problem is not as pertinent as the first. We need to have a sustainable record of the history that we are creating. Now, there might be some internet genius out there, with at least four 3TB external hard drives, who is storing all of the emails and blog entries that fly through the internet. He or she is a keen, patient investor just waiting for the time to reveal his or her wares. The IPO will be historic.

What will biographies of historic figures look like in the future if we don’t know what they thought and shared with other people? I don’t really read biographies, so I have no idea.

I’m worried me because I know how much communication I’ve already lost because of the internet. There are some emails that I wish I had never deleted. And, yes, there are some emails that I wish I had never sent, but I think that those emails are an important part of my history. They aren’t flattering, but they’re an insight into who I am.

But, it’s not only emails and blogs that are putting our history at risk of being lost. Our photographs, games, music, movies/films (low/high art?), diaries, day-planners, books, and maps, are all digital. My whole life can be planned and produced on my iPhone. That’s fucking scary.

Now, I’m probably being a little too bleak in my outlook. I’m sure there are safeguards in place to mitigate all of these fears that I have. Then, I talk to my friend who just had his laptop stolen.

I think that, in a very strange way, we are creating a history for ourselves that is as immediate as the moments we’re living in. The past and present are growing ever closer together, and each of us is in control of our own story. Still more troubling is that this chronicle is fleeting.

See, I like things. I like having things. A large book shelf, full of books. A nice stereo, that needs more than a USB cable to play music. Pens, oh, good lord, do I love pens. Paper, I even love paper. I just like having shit around that in some real way is emblematic of who I am.

Anyway, I’m probably just looking for something to hold onto. Still, I think this issue is a problem for people like me: people who have a hard time remembering, but never want to be forgotten.

Oh, right, I started sending greeting cards to my ex-girlfriend to commemorate important moments in her life. The emails started to seem somewhat trivial.


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