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Must-read on Technology Obsolescence

By Cory Lampert on April 17, 2009 8:28 AM | Permalink
What media succeeds and what happens when it fails? Should we care about obsolete technologies? This past week I was invited to a Journalism department Media Technologies and Society class to engage in a discussion about technology obsolescence. In preparation for what turned out to be a very compelling discussion, I was given a selection of articles to think about. And I just have to pass on the citation for one article that really should be required (and is in fact) very enjoyable, reading for anyone and everyone: Sterling, B. (2004). Built on digital sand. Horizon, 18. As a teaser, I'll include a quote from the article, where Sterling is comparing print media (paper and ink) preservation problems to our current situation:
"Paper documents do die, rather slowly. But the alphabetical symbols on this paper can be copied fairly cheaply and quickly without much loss of fidelity. However, if you have a computer with digital data inside it, you have not one problem, or two problems, but level after level of sophisticated instabilities. Basically, you the lonely archivist are trying to support and preserve an entire cybernetic post-industrial system."
During my time with the class, I got to share the perspective of someone in the education/cultural heritage field whose professional work deals heavily with technology (and therefore obsolescence). I was asked a multitude of insightful questions by the students and I was pleased to hear it summed up quite succinctly as the realization grew, "So basically we are ALL becoming digital librarians!" Yes, we are!

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