Jessamyn West on Our Digital History

Jessamyn weighs in on preserving our digital history, especially blogs:

Librarians get it: the content we steward is shifting from print to digital. Our libraries require more hard drive space in addition to more shelf space. Patrons need to know how to click and type as well as how to read. And, yet, what of posterity? How will our paths and trackings through the digital realm be accumulated, organized, even archived?

This question becomes further complicated by the webby-ness of our online interactions and content production. Content is still being generated in static letter, essay, and book formats, but it’s also arriving online, prelinked and connected. While the correspondence between Freud and Jung has been collected, trying to track and save the hyperlinkedness of blogs, comments, IMs, and emails is much more complex.

As a blogger, I write and link to other things online, and it’s become increasingly difficult to write essays without using hyperlinks. At the 2006 Society of American Archivists conference, I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard, though I became concerned for the future of preserving digital information. As archivist Thomas Lannon said, “This ‘unfixedness’ of blogging in its electric form is what gives the technology the power of immediacy but also its weakness in impermanence.”