January 27 2009 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: The Web Year: General Rating: 2
Should we create back-ups of websites due to be deleted for historical purposes?
Lynne Brindley, head of the British Library makes the case for preserving the web for future generations:
If websites continue to disappear in the same way as those on President Bush and the Sydney Olympics - perhaps exacerbated by the current economic climate that is killing companies - the memory of the nation disappears too. Historians and citizens of the future will find a black hole in the knowledge base of the 21st century.
But isn't that a moot point? Aren't companies like Google and other info aggregators backing up all of this data on their servers? Brindley says that's not the case:
People often assume that commercial organisations such as Google are collecting and archiving this kind of material - they are not. The task of capturing our online intellectual heritage and preserving it for the long term falls, quite rightly, to the same libraries and archives that have over centuries systematically collected books, periodicals, newspapers and recordings and which remain available in perpetuity, thanks to these institutions.
So then, it all comes down to value and ethics.
Pros: Copying websites will later serve to fill in historical blanks. The text therein will permit for the more accurate reconstruction of historical events and offer insight into the writers' personalities. The design elements will also be preserved, potentially allowing new generations of designers to license the lay-outs and graphics, saving much time and money. Individuals will have access to this information as they assemble longitudinal life-logs that may prove valuable to their or their families' well-being.
Cons: The preservation of websites will allow future actors to simulate people, places and events as they build these with powerful software and raw data. People producing content on the web will be at risk for retro-active personality, behavioral and health quantification that requires this data. This will facilitate practices such as customized advertising, mental health screening and risk assesment that can negatively impact indoviduals.