Our Digital Posterity


I look at kids these days, and I think about what technology will be like when they are my age. The young people of today have access to all manner of devices to record every moment of their life, be it Facebook, camera phones, blogs or the like. Never before in history have we recorded and stored such massive amounts of content of everything that happens every day, from the scope of the entire world, to groups, individual people and even their pets.

I was going through the faded photographs of my youth and thinking how this different this experience would be for my children. Instead of physical, tangible things, they will probably all be digital; everything accessible at the touch of a button. With the advent of digital storage, an endless stream of photos, videos, and written records, they will quantitatively have exponentially more information chronicling their entire life, far more than every generation before them combined. This in itself may seem like a good thing, until you think about it a bit more, and I'm not even referring to the about privacy issues.

Since I got my first digital camera, I have accumulated tens of thousands of photos. Some people have far more. I don’t know about you, but even with the best software, that is still a huge number of photos to manage. In the photo albums of yesteryear, one would have only a few hundred photos total to remember his or her youth.

Never before have we had a generation that will have a such an overabundance of photos. Not only their own, but their families', friends' and even acquaintances'. With the ubiquity of cameras, they will have limitless opportunities to grow their digital record. By the time they are adults, they will have tens of thousands if not millions of photos. In the digital age, with virtually unlimited photos and videos being created instantly with only the push of a button, our life is infinitely recorded.

This brings to mind an interesting question. How do we deal with such an overabundance of digital posterity? As our digital record grows, how do we manage it all, keep it all organized in a way where we can actually find the meaningful things?

Our personal multimedia is not the only thing to worry about. What about the blog posts, the Facebook comments and other places we leave our traces on the web. For the most part, these things will persist for the foreseeable future. As we become more connected we expose more of our selves to the world, and inexorably connect our vessels of posterity.

At what point will it become too much for us to handle? At what point does managing our digital collections become more time consuming than the enjoyment of such collections? Do we need a new way of managing our media or just a new way to approach it?

We need to really think about the future of our personal digital collections, as well as that which we put on the internet, or else, before too long it will overwhelm us. How long is it before our personal collections are as unknown to us as the vastness of the web itself? Who out there has a solution for our digital overload?

What do you think?