I understand the importance of “digital executors” and “digital estate planning,” at least for people who are producing or posting stuff of worth or enduring value on the internet. But really though, we have to draw a line somewhere. Most of the crap that people have created over the past few millenia should have been, and has, been weeded from the annals of history and the acid-free boxes of the archive, and now that our production is so much more voluminous there’s all the more urgency to junk that which is junk. Or, to put it more delicately:
But the tools we use privilege the moment, not the long term; they also tend to make everything feel roughly equal in importance and offer us little incentive to comb back through our digital scribblings and sort out what might have lasting meaning from what probably doesn’t. The results are pretty much the opposite of a scrapbook carefully edited to serve as a memory object but could end up serving that function by default.
Per usual (sidenote, can we decide on a way to write the spoken shortened version of “usual”? this issue has come up in multiple emails of late. I mean what do linguists have to do, really), things magazine has anticipated my thoughts more beautifully than I could express them:
But at some point in the (probably very distant) future, the number of dead people online will suddenly outnumber the living ones. Virtual corpses will start to become a real problem, just as physical corpses fill up real-world graveyards and have to be carted off and stacked up somewhere else. Imagine the internet as a virtual version of the Catacombs of Paris or the Sedlec Ossuary, a digital museum whose aura of human involvement is concealed behind a brittle carapace of hyperlinks, tweets and forgotten comments.
Shouldn’t we just face up to the banality and insurmountable overabundance of most of our digital output? And the fact that most blogging platforms, social networking sites, file-storing accounts, etc. are not really interested in the long-term storage of our precious little internet rubies and diamonds? I’m not going to show my grandaughters my Tumblr, because Tumblr is not going to exist (hello?), and also because I’m embarrassed of things that I wrote last month. If I wanted textual immortality, I guess I would take my things to Legacy Locker or DataInherit or, you know, make them tangible and keep them in a safe space.
Still though, lovin’ the title and the art on the article.