From family photographs and personal papers to health and financial information, vital personal records are becoming digital. At the same time, creation and capture of new digital information has become a part of the daily routine for hundreds of millions of people. But what are the long term prospects for this data?
The combination of new capture devices (more than 1 billion camera phones will be sold in 2010) with the move from older forms of media is reshaping both our personal and collective memories. The size and complexity of personal collections growing, these collections are spread across different media (including film and paper!), and the lines between personal and professional, published and unpublished are being redrawn.
Whether these issues are described as personal archiving, lifestreams, personal digital heritage, preserving digital lives, scrapbooking, or managing intellectual estates, they present major challenges for both individuals and institutions: data loss is a nearly universal experience, whether it is due to hardware failure, obsolescence, user error, lack of institutional support, or any one of many other reasons. Some of these losses may not matter; but the early work of the Nobel prize winners of the 2030s is likely to be digital today, and therefore at risk in ways that previous scientific and literary creations were not. And it isn’t just Nobel winners that matter: the lives of all of us will be preserved in ways not previously possible.
On Tuesday, February 16, the Internet Archive will host a small conference for practitioners in personal digital archiving.