[LINK] Internet leading to cultural 'black hole': Library

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Apr 20 10:30:37 AEST 2009

Haven't we always had "black holes" in our recorded history?
eg before printing and before reading/writing became widespread.

Plus ça change, plus ça meme chose.

Internet leading to cultural 'black hole': Library
Asher Moses
April 20, 2009 - 7:48AM
WA Today

Australia is in danger of losing its cultural heritage and much of its 
recent history if ephemeral material on the web isn't archived for 
future generations, the National Library of Australia has warned.
Library manager of web archiving, Paul Koerbin, said that with 
everything from government documents to personal photos and video clips 
now being published exclusively online, the transient, dynamic nature of 
the web meant that much of this information would be lost over time.
"There is a serious issue regarding the loss of our digital cultural 
heritage," he said.
"We are losing history ... the fact is there will be 'black holes' that 
future researchers will have to deal with."
His comments come after Lynne Brindley, the head of the British Library, 
warned that as websites come and go, the memory of the nation disappears 
too, leaving historians and citizens of the future with a "black hole in 
the knowledge base of the 21st century".
To help rectify the problem, major cultural institutions like the NLA 
are archiving some of the important material on the web, but this is 
only done on an ad-hoc basis and tight resources mean they are not even 
close to capturing all the most critical websites.
In San Francisco, the non-profit Internet Archive 
(http://www.archive.org) automatically scrapes parts of the web and its 
Wayback Machine allows people to surf back in time to see what their 
favourites sites looked like as far back as 1996. It already contains 
three petabytes of data, which equates to more than three million gigabytes.

The NLA has been archiving Australian online publications at its Pandora 
website (http://pandora.nla.gov.au) for a decade but, as of March, it 
has captured just 21,614 "archived titles".
This includes the plethora of websites associated with the Sydney 
Olympics, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's "Kevin07" election site and the 
site of the 2007 APEC summit, held in Sydney.
Government websites are of particular interest to the NLA as these often 
disappear or change completely after elections.
Other smaller-scale Australian web archiving projects include Sydney's 
Powerhouse Museum, which last year asked the public to submit their 
personal emails - from the heart-wrenching to the hilarious - in an 
effort to preserve present-day communications for future generations.
It received just 10,000 emails, enough to create only a snapshot of 
contemporary life.
Mr Koerbin said the web had changed considerably from the time the NLA 
began archiving and was now "highly dynamic, enormous in size and ever 
growing". The trend towards social networking - as opposed to simply 
publishing material on a web page - made the task of archiving extremely 
complex and daunting, as did copyright law and privacy regulations.
"While it has always been an issue to determine what we should try and 
preserve this is much more complicated now and in fact we can probably 
do relatively less," he said.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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