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Bridges to the past; links to the future



 It has occurred to me, Jack, in reading your postings on this thread,
as well as those of others, that there is also an important change
underway in who saves, as well as how we save, information.  In the old
days an individual might put something in an attic, and successive
generations might then decide to save great-gramma's diary, or whatever,
say once each thirty years.  In six generations said diary passes to an
institutional library as an historic document which keeps it, so seven
"save" decisions in 180 years, six of them with personal connections to
the document and its content.
 Now, the original, as it turns out, becomes embrittled, or damaged, and
the institution (no longer as committed to the item as a physical
object), digitally scans it and discards the original.  Let's say the
digital version must be recopied every 10 years.  Due to the volume of
recorded information, the institution must make catagory decisions about
recopying material on the basis of brief descriptions of the contents of
each disc, or whatever.  In the next 180 years, saving the diary will
require 18 separate decisions as to its value on the basis of that brief
catalog description, and in light of the institution's priorities.
  Of course, the reality is that the technology will probably change and
it will no longer be necessary to copy so often because a machine will
be able to make a copy on some sort of durable material (perhaps a clay
tablet?), but my point is that for the near future people will be
deciding what to save in a much different set of circumstances......
  Dorothy Africa


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