Digital Orphans: Technology's Wayward Children

Digital Orphans: Technology's Wayward Children

Mark Kieler (Carnegie Mellon University, USA) and Michael J. West (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
Copyright: © 2004 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-168-1.ch014
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Abstract

This chapter examines rapid technological obsolescence, and the potential impact on retrieval of intellectual creations by future generations. The authors define “intellectual creations” as human expressions embodied in text, music or art. Increasingly, we encode these creations in digital formats that have extremely short life cycles. Eventually, backward compatibility is lost. Thus, after very little time, a digital encoding format becomes obsolete, and intellectual works encoded in the format may become irretrievable. In contrast, the cultural worth of an intellectual creation may not be realized for generations. Additionally, future generations must access artifacts, including intellectual creations, to understand a culture in historical context. The authors contend that technology—intensive storage and manipulation of data may result in an inability to gain this access. Technology creators have some responsibility to facilitate future retrieval through careful documentation, and by selective maintenance of hardware that may be required to access archival media.

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