Can digital work survive like paper?

For the past month I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from the hit play Hamilton, based on the book Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. I finally downloaded the Kindle edition of the book and started reading it last week, and I’m struck by the author’s references to the writings of people of the 1700s. Some of the references are to letters and other documents that seem fairly obscure. In fact, in the book, the author notes that we’ve learned a lot of what we know about Alexander Hamilton from material that’s come to light only in the last 50+ years, as more than 22,000 pages of Hamilton’s writings were published.

Of course we’re used to reading books and material written centuries ago. From the Bible to ancient texts from early civilizations, Shakespeare and the great writers of all genres and eras, right up to the entrance of the digital era…even the not-great writers…the every-day and common recordings of business, home life, letters, journals, etc…all of it was written on materials that were physical and perishable.

But they were also savable. Keepable. And findable. Readable. And re-producable.

I can’t help but wonder, as I write away on my keyboard, if the words I save to my blog will be readable hundreds of years from now, if they’re only in digital form?

If I stop paying for my domain name, and make no provision to move the posts to a new site, or have them printed, I suppose they would disappear, as if I never wrote.

Here’s an interesting post on this problem…and it is a problem. While I fully expect the digital world to be with us forever, if we don’t experience nuclear winter, or some catastrophic natural event that shuts us all down, the digital world is fragile is ways that the physical world is not. With the changes to technology over time, and the ongoing necessity of financial backing, the issues of who pays to maintain websites, domain names, provide tech support, etc., are thorny.

And it seems there aren’t really good long-term solutions.

I’ve spent the last decade transitioning to digital everything, and I don’t regret that. But reading about information dug out of letters from the early 1700s has made me think about my letters, or rather, my lack of letters. I email, and text, post Facebook messages. But it’s extremely rare these days that I write anything that could be found twenty years from now, likely, much less two hundred years from now.

To be honest, most of what I write doesn’t merit saving…most of it’s just the stuff of everyday life. But then, that’s how we know about the past…because someone wrote about everyday life, and we can look back through time, through letters, through newspapers and books, old photos and journals.

Of course there are printed books and materials everywhere, even in this digital age. I’m not concerned that the future won’t know our time. There’s a huge volume of printed work that will surely exist, long ages from now.

But I have to admit, I’m becoming thoughtful about my work. Do I care if it doesn’t survive me? And if I want it to survive my time on earth, if writing is part of the legacy I want to leave, what do I do to make sure there’s something savable, keepable, readable, after I’m not around to pay to keep a website live, or deal with tech glitches?

It’s not as if this is a totally new thought. Of course I’ve had the experience of clicking on a link only to find that it doesn’t work. Someone set up a site, once upon a time, and then eventually quit maintaining it…you get a message that the page can’t be found, and whatever was there once, is no more.

Could ages past have more longevity than this modern time, with all our sophistication and technology? I think that’s entirely possible. Maybe even probable.

Read the post I linked above…it will make you think.

I suppose someone, some enterprising young start-up company will come up with solutions, there for anyone who is able and willing to pay for digital immortality. But who knows what that would look like?

And I’m thinking…maybe there’s something to be said for printed books after all.

 

 

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Happy Memorial Day!

To American friends and family, may your celebrations today recall the service and sacrifice of fallen heroes, present soldiers, and the veterans who have given so much for freedom. As a mom of a US veteran, I am so grateful today that I can speak to him in person rather than visit a cemetery. Blessings and heart-felt compassion for those parents who are not so fortunate.

I am visiting Williamsburg, VA, this week, and there is no more powerful reminder of the struggle to begin this country than experiencing that era in this place. May we always be free, and may we always appreciate and honor those who gave us that gift with their blood, sweat, and tears. And may we always deserve this heritage of freedom and liberty.

Hope

From my collection of quotes, declarations of hope:

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.        Robert Fulghum

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.   Samuel Johnson

Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.  Sarah Ban Breathnach

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.  Winston Churchill

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!           Louise Bogan

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.    Lin Yutang

If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.                  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.         Allan K. Chalmers

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.        Mohandas K. Gandhi

Some people believe that  having an attitude of hope is a way to practice self-deception, to hide from reality. But I disagree. I think hope is what fuels inspiration, strengthens resolve, helps us to hold on when we doubt. Hope is not a mind-numbing drug. It is an affirmation that though our wishes don’t always come true, they often do. Sometimes our own faith in the outcome is what makes the difference. We all have the ability to be self-fulfilling prophecies. I choose to live on the hopeful side of life.

Spring is sometimes called the season of hope. But hope isn’t limited to a time of year, or a time in life. It can flourish at any time.

What are you hoping for?