Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Impermanence

When we digitize, we strive to make something that will last a long time. We struggle, though, with the techniques to ensure permanence and with ideas of what "long time" really means. We know, however, that we want to preserve a record of what has occurred and is happening, and that doing so is important.

Yet there are cultures and rituals that are built on impermanence. Yesterday I attended events at the University at Buffalo where the Dalai Lama is speaking this week. I witness several examples of impermanence, with the most amazing one being a sand mandala. These are created as a meditation then deconstructed in a ritual that demonstrates how the world is not permanent.

Today I find myself wondering if we are striving to make too many things permanent. Not just in digitization, but in other areas of our lives. We create many things so they will last forever, but should they? Are we missing an important lesson in the ways of nature by not realizing that things are meant to fade and decay? Should everything follow the way of our memories -- slowly fading and changing?

And should we remember that even our permanent records can be imperfect reminders of the events that they document, like these photos of mine?

Undoubtedly my thoughts of impermanence will fade as I emerge myself back into thoughts of digitization and digital preservation. However, I hope that I will keep more in the front of my mind questions about if what we are preserving needs to be preserved.

1 comment:

Richard L. Hess said...

Hi, Jill,

There is, I think, a related question. In our respective areas of expertise there is always the drive for the highest resolution digitization.

To that, I ask: will our grandchildren be happier if we digitize a lot at reasonable resolution or less at higher resolution?

By reasonable resolution, I mean something like CD-quality audio and 10-20 MP for images.

Cheers,

Richard