The persistence of memory

28 September 2007

Well, so I could just consider this blog a reposting engine for Arts & Letters Daily, if that statement wasn’t itself some statement of the problem of influence. Which in my case includes an acceptance that I’ll probably never know more than a tithe of what the concepts I invoke represent, in any discipline. At any rate. . .

I’ve read other discussions of the vast accumulation of all sorts of the information formerly known as ephemera, but none so thoughtful as Jessica Winter’s piece in the Boston Globe. And certainly the thought that your Google search history from 2004 might become an issue at a job interview in 2009 is wierd if not troubling.

But. When I first read an article about the short-lived nature of most digital media, it asserted that we can no longer read the first email sent (in 1971, by the by). There’s an Isaac Asimov quote that I couldn’t track down where he talks about a universal, cheap, portable technology for information transfer directly into our brains. His punch line, delivered with characteristic disregard for his audiences’ intelligence, was that we already have that technology, embodied in books.

While I don’t always agree with Asimov, that sentiment does feed nicely into Stephen Shapin’s essay about how pervasive the notion of technology is if we remove the limits we’ve placed on it from the last sixty years. The debate about the oldest piece of technology also seems relevant here, though Shapin doesn’t get into it. The article is worth readng all the way through, though. Shapin includes nearly as many references as James Burke, with a bit more urbanity if less zeal.


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