How will we remember our personal past in the future?

January 3, 2022    Bookmark

If you’re young today, your formative years depend on auto-deleted snapchat videos, short-lived memes, stories told in computer games likely unplayable in 30 years (without emulation of complex proprietary CPUs and GPUs), and whatever happens to flutter by in a feed. I’m curious what the future of reminiscing will look like, even if all of this is saved somehow. So much to sift through, so few tangible artifacts. Even more traditional culture is less permanent: we get our music and movies from streaming services, we rent our e-books through EULA:s and consume them on devices controlled by the manufacturer. I do most of this myself - but I was young in a different era and I at least have my stacks of CD:s (including bob hund) tucked away in a safe place and shelves full of the prose and movies that shaped me.

Even brevity is artificial now. Instead of a hastily scribbled love note on a postcard, we have Twitter - run by the same execs who shut down Vine, effectively erasing a huge chunk of the collective memories of a generation: skits, music, societal commentary. Offline. Just like with Geocities. And Friendster. And, of course, all those sites that still exist but where old content has been deleted or accounts lost and can’t be reclaimed due to defunct webmail services, changes of ownership and crass business decisions.

And yet, despite these and countless other examples, we still put our faith in digital permanence. We create so many mementos we hardly have time to look at them and then we entrust them all to companies and platforms beyond our control, storing them on machines we don’t own using services that could disappear tomorrow. Will Youtube still be there in 50 years? Will Instagram and Dropbox?

Carl Svensson