Monday, June 27, 2011

The Digital Legacy

Many internet users assume that our digital record becomes more-or-less permanent, with our every spontaneous comment permanently lodged into an ethereal archive.  Personally, I think it’s highly likely that our most embarrassing personal moments really are permanently carved into cyberspace.  Now I only wish I had faith that all the good things will be preserved, too.  In my pessimism, I tend to assume that the worst will be preserved and the best will be lost.

In my discussion with Tom Clareson , Senior Consultant for New Initiatives at LYRASIS, and Leigh A. Grinstead, Digital Services Consultant at LYRASIS, I asked about intentional efforts to preserve these new records of our lives.  After a loved one dies, how can we best preserve their digital legacy:  their e-mails, Facebook page, YouTube videos, website, etc.?  It turned out that I was pushing the envelope with this line of inquiry.  These are areas that the experts are still wrestling with:

“Thinking about YouTube videos, it is likely that the creator probably still has movie files on a computer hard drive and those can be copied and migrated forward over time.  The videos that appear on YouTube are highly compressed and it would be best to keep the first generation file and try to preserve that rather than trying to keep the public or ‘access version.’

“The Library of Congress has just entered into a landmark agreement with Twitter to archive all Twitter feeds.  But for other social media, like Facebook, there are enormous privacy issues associated with the material that is being created. Each Facebook account is set up with unique user agreements about who can see what material so the likelihood that Facebook pages could be archived in the
same way that Twitter feeds are to be archived is very unlikely.

Facebook posts and other social media forms are ephemeral in nature.  As creators and family historians, I think we need to ask ourselves what it is that we are truly trying to capture with this information.  For the YouTube materials, you might have access to the movie file but for other social media forms, this really is the web archiving frontier.”

© 2011 Lee Price

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