Sunday, July 20, 2008

Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age--The Digital Dark Age

I have been working on my "Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age" lecture for the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. I think it is coming together well. I'm going share it with you in the next week's posts. At some point I'll share with you parts of my other lectures as well.

The digital age has done many great things for genealogy. Historically, Family History has been the luxury of nobility and the very rich. Digitizing, especially the Internet has democratized genealogy, Family History is now available to all. Now everyone is important, the most humble servant, the slave, the indentured servant. But the only ancestors that can be found are those whose records have survived.

But according to the Library of Congress (Librarians would know :-) we are currently creating a digital dark age of mammoth proportions. According to, the Library of Congress' digital preservation site:
  • While the web began to be a major force in elections starting in 1994, starting only in 2000 and 2004 the Library of Congress captured and preserved candidate’s websites.
  • Candidate websites prior to 2000 are lost to history.
  • 44% of the internet sites in 1998 had disappeared one year later.
  • The average life of a Web site is between 44 and 100 days
  • The Library of Congress has preserved 66 terabytes of digital files selected for preservation – the text equivalent of approximately 66 million books, as of July 2007.

For someone who spends much of her life on facebook, my blog, and other people's blogs, not to mention my website and e-mail, what record is there of all of my time invested?

Then add to that the crisis that occurs when you lose data you thought you had preserved: you have a computer or backup meltdown like I did at Christmas. I thought the world had come to an end. You probably have never had that happen huh?

According to some estimates:

  • 45% of people don’t back up their files
  • 43% of computer users lose important information each year.
    Will you be in the 43% this year or next? reported that people said they had :
  • Lost data due to accidental deletion, disk or system failure, viruses, fire or another disaster 69%
  • Lost data two or more times in the last year 40%
  • At least moderate concerns about data loss 62%

Thus: DIGITAL MATERIALS ARE MUCH MORE FRAGILE THAN PHYSICAL MATERIALS. What record are you really leaving of your life?

--more to come.

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