Monday, March 7, 2011

Media Archaeology

I recently watched a video where someone was labeled a "Media Archaeologist". This started a spiral of me thinking of nothing but the whole concept of media archaeology. We often think of archeologists as people who study the distant past. The dictionary definition of an archaeologist is one who studies human history and pre-history through artifacts and physical remains. But can't history be seen as any time through this exact moment. A moment comes and goes, and then is history.

In our technological world, new media comes and goes. New devices are created, making what came before obsolete. Things we used everyday just 10 years ago are now impossible to find. How many people do you know that still own a vcr? A film camera? A tape player? In the past 20-30 years a whole new area has opened up for the study and preservation of obsolete media. This doesn't just include the players, but the content they played. There are films yet to be converted to a digital format, that may never be converted, and therefore never seen again. Bruce Sterling began the Dead Media Project in 1995 as a way to compile and remember forgotten technology, but by 2001 the project was essentially dead.

While searching out old media, I found some wonderful video's at of Berkeley after a fire in 1923, the same year my house was built. It's interesting to look through and compare streets of today to yesterday and to understand the change that has taken place. It's things like this that we need to convert and save and share. We use books and video to learn and understand new ideas, but many of the images and literature currently used may not be accessible in the future except within archival institutions. The future builds upon the past, so understanding of the past may even help us to more accurately predict the future. Without access to documentation on the past, the progressive rate of change we have been accustomed to will rapidly stop.

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