Information Overload

For this week’s meeting of the POSOH/SLIS group, we are reading three articles, one of which was written by Michael Ashley, entitled “Deep Thinking in Shallow Time: Sharing Humanity’s History in the Petabyte Age”. The article delves into the reality of our current situation with regard to information. There is A LOT of it and a lot of it is in a digital format, which means it is at a higher risk of being lost to the ages. Rather than losing the information to decay or a weather related catastrophe, it is more than likely the information will be lost to weeding or lack of preservation. In his article, Ashley states, “Hillis describes the ‘here and now’ as a ‘Digital Dark Age’, because information is devalued by the ubiquity of digital content that cannot outlast our lifetimes” (Ashley 6). I had thought of this before, but had not thought of the impact this kind of loss might have on the history of humanity.

Ashley talks about the timeline of human written/recorded history. He asks the question, “The Internet, or electronic networking, is transforming so quickly, what will it be like in 25 years, one reflection of time from its creation?” (Ashley 4). His article is concerned that, like the hieroglyphs of ancient times, digital information from today will not be recognizable in 25 years. It will not be readable and it will therefore not be relevant. For this reason, it is important to begin a process of standardization that will morph as needed into newer versions of itself, rather than having to start from scratch every time a new digital information preservation language is introduced.

An interesting point about this that was made in his article is that it is up to the producer of the information to preserve the information now. He says, “Until we can invent the digital equivalent of the cuneiform tablets, that is, a substance that can preserve the medium and the message equally, we will need stewards of the human record” (Ashley 6).

The importance of the digital library project I am working on is stated in the above sentence. If we don’t preserve the legacy of the POSOH project, no one else will. The products, the science units, will be available, but the work that went into them will be lost. The background of the project, the people who worked so hard on it need to also be preserved. The digital library project will not only preserve the work of the POSOH project, it will be an avenue of preservation for other projects of the Sustainable Development Institute of the College of Menominee Nation and hopefully also, through Mukurtu, a preservation tool for other tribal projects and information.