Digital Archivists are Pessimistic Futurists

As a digital archivist, i kind of live in the past all the time, professionally. That’s not to say I’m an overly nostalgic person, at least towards the state of technology over the last fifteen to twenty-five years.

Do I prefer a world with audio CDs, AIM, SoundJam, and PowerBooks to the world of iPhones, cloud purchases, and iPads? Not really. I love my iPad, and to quote Steve Jobs, it really does feel like the future every time I swipe my fingers around on that gorgeous retina screen.

I like new technology.

I think just now we’re getting to the point technologically that “the future” is here: ubiquitous wireless and cellular internet, photography, video recording and transmission. But it won’t be for 20 or 30 years the repercussions of this will really come to bear.

It’s my job to think about those problems now. So, in a way, I also live in the future, professionally. A quote from an archivist on Twitter I saw recently said that digital archivists are just really pessimistic futurists.

And I agree with that in a way. We’re constantly examining the problems of data technologies in the past and extrapolating them to apply to the problems of the future. Ideally, with an eye towards having solutions in hand when those problems arise – or at least ideas towards finding solutions.

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