2005/09/27

Will digital photography lead to new "dark age"?

Canadian Press has an interesting article on how today's popularity of digital photography may lead to new "dark age". While our parents kept volumes of photo albums, today's kids may not be so fortunate.Some experts fear that although we're taking more photos than ever those memories may be trapped in cyberspace never captured on physical paper or collected in one source for future generations to view.

According to the experts interviewed by the CP:


Memories are being filed away on our computers and saved to CDs which don't have nearly the longevity of old fashioned negatives and photo paper. Many archivists believe the cutting-edge technology we use today to access these treasured memories won't be around years from now.

"It's a fact - we will not be able to get at that stuff," said Mark Federman, chief strategist and professor with the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto.

"The research that I'm doing now, that exists on a computer that may be backed up onto a server, that may ultimately find its way onto a CD or a DVD storage device - none of those will exist 50 years from now," he said.

Centuries from now, historians might even be calling our time "a type of dark age," Federman adds.

"Compared to earlier generations, very little of our cultural history is being recorded so that it will actually exist into the future," he said, pointing to centuries-old oil paintings that help tell the stories of our forefathers.

"Unless we take our digital media and put it forward (in a traceable way) then the people in the future will have no record of us in the way that physical records have come forward to us . . . what that essentially means is that we're forgotten."

1 comment:

jaybird said...

As someone who has already lost photos in a hard drive crash, I can attest to the truth of this argument.

One point they neglect to mention not just the file formats of the images, but the lifespan of the storage media. CD-Rs and DVD-Rs do not last forever (not even the manufactured ones you buy, although they last a lot longer).

Another thing they don't mention is print method. The lifespan of the photo really depends on the ink/paper used. A lot of those "print at home" photo printers have crap lifespans. I know I have had photos that were printed at home or using one of those Kodak "instant print" centres at Lowblaws and they rapidly deteriorated.