Digital Dark Age or Seeing the Light

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Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet which became publicly available on the 6th August, 1991.  He did so so that he could access and retrieve information in a more efficient, effortless and seamless way and still today he is calling on raw data so that it can be accessed and used to create and to learn.  His idea is to create as much linked data as possible because it is only when data is connected that it becomes valuable AND it can only become connected when every person who engages with digital information ‘does their bit.’

Next year it will be 25 years since the Internet began to be seen as a possibility and a reality and in that time the information has grown to such vast proportions in digital format that commentators, scientists, librarians and archivists are questioning our ability to keep this period of history alive for future generations. The phrase that is being communicated through and across various arenas is that of the ‘digital dark age.’  Quite simply put how will future generations know, remember, access and retrieve information about this episode of history if we do not firstly, put some thought and action into preserving this information.  This then leads to the second consideration how will future generations be able to retrieve and understand the data and information that is preserved when technologies keep changing.

I can see this through the fact that our wedding video is sitting in a drawer unable to be shared with our children as we do not have a video player.  We have a wedding album of hard copies of photos which are lovely to browse and giggle at every anniversary but as my parents have discovered with their wedding photos, they have deteriorated over time.

Photograph:  Fletcher's Fotographics, 1993

Photograph: Fletcher’s Fotographics, 1993

Digital technologies offered us a way to bring these photos ‘back to life’ and now the awareness is that we need to keep thinking and being proactive in continuing to consider what we store data and information on and whether it will be able to be read, seen, viewed, retrieved in the future.

This clip below gives an ‘in a nutshell’ explanation of what we are reflecting on when we think about ‘avoiding a digtal dark age.’  Perhaps though we could look at it and suggest that we are now seeing the light?  It is going to require expertise, advocacy and developing a participatory digital culture.

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