5.0216 Preservation (was Archiving) (1/31)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 7 Jul 91 17:10:26 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0216. Sunday, 7 Jul 1991.

Date: Thu, 4 Jul 1991 22:06:56 -0400
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: preservation?

Richard Ristow's comments about the difficulties of preserving
electronic information struck me also as cogent and thoughtful. In
some of the discussion that has followed, however, the real problem
has been clouded by what may well be the most common fallacy concerning
electronic information. Forgive me for plucking once again this by now
badly worn string, but its sound is still inaudible, or badly
misconstrued, by many. The fallacy to which I refer is that electronic
information is essentially the same as printed information; the false
conclusion so often drawn is that we must in all cases do with the
former the same as we have always done with the latter. In the present
case, PRESERVE IT. I sincerely hope that in many instances the e-info
can be left to take its speedy journey into the void.

Please note: I am as anxious as most, perhaps more so, that certain
kinds of e-info do not disappear. We are in danger, however, of
forgetting that the new medium is most excellent for allowing serious
conversations, and seriously playful conversations, to enlighten the
lives of many in the swiftly fleeting moment and then gracefully
vanish. Print is very bad for that purpose, very wasteful. The
e-medium is also good for allowing us to try out our ideas on our
colleagues, without subjecting already overburdened library budgets to
pick up the tab for our tenure-and-promotion driven flounderings.

In brief, and at the risk of being a big bore: the new medium is NEW.
I'm still looking for a study in the history of science and technology
that documents how difficult the new is to perceive as such. I suspect
we're only the latest to struggle with the problem.

Willard McCarty