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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/2812
- Pack-rat or amnesiac? Memory, the archive and the birth of the Internet
- Barnet, Belinda
- The American company that promoted the Internet in its early days, Sun Microsystems, conducted research into how people use the Web in 1997. It concluded simply, 'They don't.' They sample words and phrases . The wired world doesn't promote meditation. People scan, graze, forward or download megabytes of information and store it on computers whose memories get fatter and processors faster every few months—the large proportion of it is not even read, let alone understood. There is an ever-growing militia of information carriers, professional and amateur. They have learned to sift through information like superfine flour, to squirrel it away in gigabytes for a feast that never comes. Like Ted Nelson with his glorious barricade of filing cabinets and folders, we have become pack-rats. Archivists are everywhere, official and self-made. But, at the same time, circuit-driven communications encourage a short-term memory. On the level of software and hardware, many of the world's librarians and archivists see a crisis looming. The rate at which we churn through storage technologies is escalating. We discard six-month-old PCs. We upgrade digital networks as regularly as our finances allow it. Archives are often lost to technological obsolescence. In under forty years, we have seen magnetic core memory, cartridges, magnetic tapes, microfilm, 51 4 inch floppy disks, high-density floppy disks, optical disks and now CD-ROM succeed each other at light speed. Old storage media are quickly outdated, and the information they contain, unless it is 'refreshed' as the industry calls it, is always in danger of becoming unreadable. With paper, all you needed was your eyes. The Web is the most dramatic example of this. It is by nature a transient, evanescent medium.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Continuum : Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Vol. 15, no. 2 (2001), pp. 217-231(15)
- Publication year
- FOR Code(s)
- 200102 Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies; 200104 Media Studies; 220203 History and Philosophy of Engineering and Technology
- Carfax Publishing
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- Peer reviewed