Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Intangible Possessions

A friend was asking me a few days ago what I do for backing up my digital pictures. He is considering a couple of commercial service providers who will back up images with multiple redundancy. Obviously, pictures equal memories and are incredibly valuable. My friend has a toddler so the picture-taking is non-stop. I know having been through that phase with J.

I don't do anything for backup I said and he expressed both surprise and concern at that. The pictures I like very much, I print and put in a physical album. The rest are all over the place. I don't find myself feeling attached to digital images. They are special only when they tangible. Obviously, there is a limit to how much I can turn "tangible" or would even consider worthwhile to do so. This essay on the the transient nature of digital collections in The Morning News deals with just this idea. The author says :

Old formats ooze historical significance; new ones are deleted with a tap.

Just that makes digital media rather difficult to get attached to. Besides everything that is digital is probably recoverable as well - specially if you did not produce it yourself. You can just plug in to the universal repository of media via the web and all at once you can have everything you lost back again. Sure some things are easier to find than others but with some persistence and patience an accidentally wiped out music collection such even as esoteric as the author's can be rebuilt.

It makes sense then that I have notebooks, cards and letters from twenty years ago to this day but have very little by way for digital memories. The time-stamp on an email even ten years old never triggers that rush of nostalgia that the date on an hand-written letter can.

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