Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Preserving Memories in Cyberspace 

This article has prompted me to think about some interesting issues. I often wonder what it will be like for historians in the future, given the fact that many people do not keep a hard copy of such things as their personal correspondance today. The man of letters is an endangered species; however, the 'man of e-mails' seems undeserving of his place. So much of our personal material and information is embedded in forms of technology that may not be easy to find in twenty years time, let alone a few hundred. Now that we store our photos on discs and our correspondance online or on our hard drives, we make it far more likely that they will never survive our own deaths. Such things as data corruption, incompatibility problems and password protection can all play a part in this. When our technology is increasingly geared solely towards present consumption it seems that the possibility of our memories being preserved is increasingly slim. The fact that our technology increasingly militates against the long-term preservation of our memories does not entirely surprise me. In the peculiar temporality of cyberspace, it seems strange to give thought to future generations. The future simply is not a horizon of our existence in cyberspace in the same way as it is elsewhere. Nor is the past. Cast adrift in cyberspace it is hard to form past, present and future into a coherent narrative. In cyberspace we exist within a relentless flux of images that grants our existence a disjointedness that would not be experienced by people in previous ages. The nomadic existence of the person in cyberspace discourages any great commitment to one particular metanarrative (this term being used in its broader sense). The sheer glut of information has the effect of desensitizing us to truth. In cyberspace our lives can easily become insulated from conviction and passionate involvement. In cyberspace we can all too easily become nothing more than consumers driven by a constant pulse of desire for the next new thing that we lose all sense of ourselves as actors in history. As Christians we must remember the warning to watch and be sober; in cyberspace we are wandering on 'enchanted ground'. Much of modern electronic technology has the effect of deconstructing our abilities to act as those who are called to sustain community throughout history. This is increasingly begin to dawn on me, both in my own experience and in observing others. I would be interested to hear people's thoughts on how we can act as people of memory and hope in an age of ephemerality. Are there any creative and imaginative ways in which we can harness our technology to aid us in our vocation? What are some of the practices and habits that people have adopted in order to resist the tendency of modern technology to drown us in a disjointed present? In particular, what are some of the ways in which we can ensure the preservation of our memory (not merely data) in the age of cyberspace?

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