The other day, my brother asked for help printing out a paper for his Physics class (ran out of ink, as usual). When I opened the documents he emailed, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at what I saw. Of course, the paper was all about Physics–sort of a brief overview of significant events in the field for the past few centuries. But he presented what was supposedly a timeline of historic events in an unusual fashion: as lifestreams. He used Plurk, to be more specific.
I had a blast reading about Archimedes taking a bath and then exclaiming Eureka! and how Einstein purportedly plurks that relativity is how spending an hour with a pretty girl seems like a minute (how time flies, huh?).
If I wasn’t such a Physics geek back in High School I probably won’t find any of these interesting. But then what I find intriguing is the possibility of future generations looking back our present time through our lifestreams. Face it: our blog posts, tweets, plurks, and social network testimonials are part of history.
One of my history professors taught me how history is recorded through a collective of streams of information from personal observations and other data. And so, indeed, tweets, plurks, microblogs and even other longer mediums, are part of history.
But how sticky are these tidbits of personal and social history? Web applications and online media are eletronic and can be considered ephemeral in nature. Blogs come and go. And even blogging, lifestreaming services and social bookmarkers can close shop. Can we, therefore, rely on these as a good way to preserve our lines of thought for future generations? Can we trust our history to web apps?
The British Library is concerned with preserving digital media as reliably as manuscripts and books, and they want to archive digital media (on various other mediums) for future reference. True enough, it’s not too difficult to archive paper. Take for instance notes and letters sent between historical figures or heads of state, perhaps like communication between America’s founding fathers stored in national or state archives. Or how about something personal like love letters exchanged between sweethearts kept precious inside tin boxes? But email correspondences might slip away if not saved and archived properly. Consider this: how sure are you that Gmail will still be around 50 years from now?
This notwithstanding, lifestreaming services do afford us a good overview of what’s happening around the world, right now. Live blogging has become popular at trade events and conventions. Lifestreaming services make it even easier and more convenient, particularly if users can access through mobile devices.
In fact, some major world events have been liveblogged and “lifestreamed” so to speak. Take for instance CERN’s tests of its Large Hadron Collider late last year. Updates were posted on Twitter. Yes, that and a handful of doomsday predictions! But when the dust has settled–and when we’re sure we’re still alive and not sucked by some black hole from Europe–would people still consider this relevant at all?
The civilizations of old left us their structures and artifacts as pieces of the puzzle that is their history. To some extent, I still wonder at awe at how people lived back then. Ages from now, would people look back at the 21st Century through our “structures” and “artifacts” that is what we call new media? Would lifestreams and blogs be part of history? Would there be a reliable archive of this electronic data that would last through the rigors of time?
Or is all this just a fleeting moment, bound to pass at the blink of an eye?