The Persistence of Memory in the Digital Age

There’s a blog post out on Summation.net from a few years back about the erosion of online anonymity: “The Erosion of Online Anonymity (and How to Restore It)

Back then, I tweeted the blog post along and forwarded to the guys at Catan LLC, since they love seeing Catan mentioned in non-game-industry media. I also commented on the story there.

Forget-Not by Z Joya, on Flickr

Forget-Not by Z Joya, on Flickr (BY-NC-SA)

I love this topic. My own epiphany in digital memory came back when I was trying to figure out if I was going to work with Dave Arneson on GURPS Civil War. (This was a long time ago; Dave has since died, and GURPS Civil War never came off, and the page soliciting it has been doing so since 2003.) So some time in those dark ages of online search, I happened across a message board archive (maybe Usenet, maybe some BBoard emulation) where a poster mentioned working with Dave, and I reached out to him about the experience. I don’t remember how he felt about working with Dave, but I distinctly remember his initial rejoinder: The Internet means never having to say “I don’t recall.”

Probably there are things that have disappeared from (or “been forgotten by”) the digital hivemind. But you’d be hard-pressed to guarantee that a particular bit of tid is nowhere to be found anymore. This knowledge is why it’s sometimes hard to watch action soap operas like 24If you have a video incriminating the very powerful person and want to get the story out, just upload it.

There are some great thinkers thinking interesting things about what it means to be able to remember everything virtually these days, and what it means not being able to be forgotten. If you haven’t read all of these, they cover some good ground — this in basically my order of enjoyment:

The last book in particular ends with a fizzle, since I don’t think much of the plausibility of his solutions. But it was worth reading for the investigation of the problem.

I’ve also been reading some interesting things in “Data Finds Data” (Jonas & Sokol, in Beautiful Data).

—jhunterj

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