Tag Archives: electronic data

How will we write history when the data disappears?

Like a lot of people at present, I imagine, I have a little red dot hovering over Settings on my iPad and iPhone, inviting me to download an upgrade.  Despite the lure of little red dots, I’m ignoring it, because the upgrade would mean replacing my Google Maps app, which is fine, with Apple’s own Maps – which is apparently hilariously bad.

This is fine in the short term, just irritating – but what about the long term?  What about all the stuff – content, programs, operating systems, a perfectly good Google Maps app – that disappears?

‘Our online history is disappearing at an astonishing rate, creating a black hole for future historians,’ says Tom Chatfield on the BBC Futures program.  He gives examples from last year’s revolution in Egypt – photos, tweets, blog posts – that have just disappeared in the last year.  Chatfield points out the irony that it’s now possible to read online virtually any book or pamphlet printed during the 17th century English Civil War – but not similar communications from last year’s Arab Spring.

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