Will the early 90’s be lost like tears in the rain?

I saw on Twitter a poignant post recalling the early days of the internet.

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It’s a reference to the death monologue given by the dying android Batty in Bladerunner. Reflecting upon early 90’s and 80’s indie culture, small businesses owned by Gen-X shopkeepers, many of these went under during waves of recession and rent increases. There was no Yelp back then, no local foodie magazines propped up by investors. There might have been a fleeting reference or xeroxed photo in a 50 cent zine, but beyond that this was a undocumented zeitgeist that disappeared before much could be recorded for posterity.

Decades of attention were showered upon Boomers and the 60’s. There were documentaries, retrospective exhibits.  It pains me as a trained archivist that the punk to early 90’s era received comparatively sparse attention. Outside of noxious Newsweek articles about Generation X, where are the archives? Yes, there are musical documentaries and biographies, but outside of those that made it big, where are the digital records?

These days we have an excess of data due to millennials documenting everything with Instagram, Twitter, Yelp. It is impossible now to live and create without leaving a digital trace.

My generation spawned flyers, zines, diy comics, cassette mixed tapes, but how much has survived? If some had been been digitized, have them been tagged? Indexed? None of these records are searchable.

Online you can find thousands of iterations of viral memes from the last two years. It reminds of trying to read one’s social media news feed beyond yesterday. Online blogging platforms only show you posts from the last two weeks. What does this say about our value of history?

Many in my generation prided ourselves on being indie and underground, but much history was buried when bigger businesses took over and everyone went online. To counter historical homogeneity we need proof of the other narratives. Loft living did not begin with dot com tech workers for example, it started with artists living in unheated warehouses, filling giant open spaces with 50’s style kitchen furniture, Xmas lights, art school sculptures, graffiti and yes, code violations. There were cottage industries that sprung up around the late 80’s, early 90’s rave culture. Clothing, diners like Hell’s Kitchen on Haight St. that were as known for its collection of vintage toys hanging from the ceiling as for lack of service and cleanliness. I do not argue these factors (as well as drugs) did not contribute to this vanishing, but I mourn the lack of photos.

When I lived in Santa Cruz there was a small cafe across the street from a comic book store on Water St. The cafe owners were an older, quiet Gen X couple that reminded me of Kim Gordon and Michael Gira. They collected vintage, mid-century modern furniture and coffee mugs. They served Peet’s coffee in French presses. There were large art magazines around and 80’s era experimental art. I loved going there to escape the crowds of students and/or hippies elsewhere, but sadly they did not get enough traffic to survive. This was the other nail in the coffin for these special places, as the post-Reagan economy became more cut-throat, unique businesses had to play a numbers game or fail.

It makes me envious of Europeans, who not only experience businesses lasting a lifetime, but some have lasted over a century. I don’t have the space to explore the effect of this late Capitalist churn on the American culture and social psyche, but we basically have no permanence. Cafes and restaurants I took my son to when he was a toddler no longer exist and that’s just a handful of years. There used to be cafes and restaurants in my hometown that existed for 40-50 years. We’d meet there during holidays, it was a kind of psychic touch stone. A chance to step back into that stream in time. How can one go back ‘home’ when everything is gone?

Photographs help, telling stories help – but when there are no records and you no longer know anyone who remembers these places, what then?

This is what motivates archivists and historians.

Before you Instagram one more acai bowl or tumeric latte – go through your old zines, flyers, photos and digitize them. Upload them, tag them, GPS-tag photos of businesses that used to exist. Date-stamp them with the year, or best estimate. Don’t let these memories be lost like tears in the rain.

Art – Tech – Eco – Culture could save the 21st century

What does Art-Tech-Eco-Culture mean? It represents a convergence of design, political will, mobilization and creativity that just may thwart the most dire climate change predictions.

I haven’t written enough about eco topics lately, but they have weighing on my mind, especially this past year. If you’re like me, it’s been difficult to stay focused in 2017. Each day when I wake up like Dorothy Parker asking “What fresh hell is this?” What keeps me moving forward? Action plans and recognizing where positive changes ARE happening.

If we focus on the negative, things can look hopeless…but something positive DID happened this year. The election of Trump re-invigorated and mobilized everyone concerned about the environment, social justice, economic justice, and health. Realizing also how connected these concepts are is no longer an abstract. It has became obvious in memes spread by middle school kids. When 11 year olds are ‘woke’ to these ideas we’re getting somewhere. The shift IS happening.

In the past year with Trump administration attacks on climate science, environmental regulations, groups and concerned citizens have been organizing like never before. Through social media, blogs, and small businesses, interests in ways to save the planet have sky-rocketed. Trends that have been simmering since 2006 have exploded.

It couldn’t come any sooner – In just the past month we’ve had at least 3 devastating hurricanes, unprecedented flooding and out of control wildfires in the west. The warnings Al Gore gave years ago as a nightmarish but distant future, are happening right now.

So, what are these trends I’ve been seeing – in stores, documentaries, book-sales, product sales, on social media, in local legislation, in laws around the world? By themselves they may seem small or inconsequential – but they are driving real changes in industries and policies around the world. Companies are shifting investments and product strategies because of these trends. Citizens are speaking up and demanding new laws.

recycling rates around the world

  • Plastic bag bansMother Nature Network has an interactive map of locales around the world that have banned plastic bags.

bag ban map

  • Rise of Tiny Homes
  • Interest in Minimalism
    • Growth in books and blogs on de-cluttering, simplifying, downsizing.
    • Swap party movement – articles showed up in blogs, on Pinterest – now even Oprah, Women’s Day, Weight Watchers and Good Housekeeping are telling Americans how to host a clothing swap party.
      • The average American throws away 70 lbs. of clothing and accessories each year. Instead – go to swap parties with your bags of clothing, books, accessories, home items. Visit with friends over drinks, snacks. Go home with new treasures. Remainders go to local charities.
  • Sustainable Farming
    • The Netherlands ,the second largest exporter of food in the world, employs techniques using 90% less water:
    • Aquaponics – chemical free, it also uses a fraction of the water used in conventional agriculture.
    • Permaculture – is about working with nature, not against it, to produce ‘permanent agriculture.’
  • Efforts to Reduce Food Waste
  • DIY movement
    • Thanks to YouTube and other forms of social media, it’s become possible to move being consumerism to create for ourselves.
    • Evolving into ‘Do it Together’  Bartering and communal efforts connect people and help share skills.
  • Growth of Veganism
    • This is huge – with animal agriculture accounting for more global warming gasses than the transportation sector. Documentaries have been uncovering these links and how leading environmental groups have been bullied by these industries to keep this quiet.
    • The documentary What the Health which aired on Netflix this year resulted in a spike of people waking up to the enormous impact that animal protein has on causing cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Moving to a plant-based diet will save countries billions of dollars in health care costs.
  • Decades of processed foods affect on Western gut bacteria has lead to an epidemic of immune disorders. This has spurred a movement toward reintroducing probiotics into our diets. (And I’m not talking about sugary, processed yogurt.)
  • Rise of interest in Yoga
    • This has been politically contentious in some Muslim and Christian communities who have decried this as somehow converting people to Hinduism. In truth, Yoga is enormously prevalent across communities in the world, of many religions. Sikh practicioners, for example, are not Hindu. This fear is as weak an argument as thinking that Westerners using ‘Zen’ practices to de-clutter their homes will turn them into Buddhists. Or that the Japanese celebrating Christmas will turn into Christians. It hasn’t happened.
    • In truth, the practice of yoga (and meditation!) across the world, among prison populations, urban schools, veterans suffering from PTSD, or refugees suffering from the traumas of war – has lead to tremendous healing.


Reflections on Chef’s Table – Massimo

I was watching the first episode of Chef’s Table, on Massimo‘s Italian restaurant, how he has become a national treasure, despite early on being considered treasonous by traditionalists. His creative energy and artistry is palpable; reminding me of the Italian Engineering professors I encountered while working administration in a Computational Engineering department. The professor I supported was from New York and would host professors from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Norway. They would often go to local modern Italian trattorias and coffeehouses for brainstorming sessions. They were some of the most energetic, imaginative people outside of artists I ever met.

Photo by Farideh Sadeghin c/o Saveur

I try not to delve into politics on this blog, but I am very concerned. We may be losing our grip on the very engine that made America a leader in science, technology and innovation with our current administration. There’s a great three part program on Netflix right now about three cities….Vienna 1908, Paris in the 1928’s and New York in the 1951’s. Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds. New York took over the spot as the center for new art and creativity in large part because of the great European diaspora after WWII. We can thank this for the introduction of cafes to America and the energy of New York unlocked the potential of an entire generation of artists and writers.  Similarly, Americans brought enormous creativity to Paris during the 1920’s, as did artists from Japan.

There is a growing ferment in the world that would have countries lock themselves down, despite the fact that acts of terrorism are more often occurring with radicalized, mentally ill citizens. Economic anxiety and policies of austerity are causing birth rates to drop…triggering fears amid white Europeans and Americans that their time is waning, giving rise to supremacist movements. Yet little attention is paid to labor issues, living wage issues, mental health issues, education issues.

Populations are electing governments that promise to close countries off from immigrants while they continue to starve supportive sectors like education, heath, housing, sciences, the arts. All these efforts fuel the fires that could extinguish Western Civilization and its potential rather than preserve it….or develop it! Where will the next great center of science and the arts be? Could be Dubai, Oslo or Hong Kong.

We devote our budget to fighting wars on ‘terrorism’…but without support for infrastructure, science, housing, arts, education….where will our next engineers, artists or talented chefs come from…what are we fighting for?

Colonial Hong Kong influenced Cyberpunk Dystopia


When asked to imagine a post-industrial, urban dystopia, Westerners may summon images from Bladerunner, Neuromancer, or Ghost in a Shell. Backdrops of crumbling hyper-density, juxtapositions of poverty and neon, advanced technology and decaying urban infrastructure.

We may imagine humans living like colonies of ants within anarchic, decentralized structures covered in graffiti, filled with crime and the smells of laundry and street food. If asked to point to exact cultural locations, we would  think of Tokyo or Hong Kong based upon the films, anime and books mentioned above.

What is it about those cities that brought those qualities to mind, especially as these are already historicized, locked away in 1980’s cyberpunk nostalgia? These cities are now likely cleaner, filled with high rises instead of slums, Still, these images persist due to the powerful work of artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers. Where did it all come from? What were the roots of this post-industrial dystopia and why does it still touch people? What meaning does it all hold for us now in the 21st century…a time of luxury condos and sterile interiors?

Liam Wong, a graphic designer in the video game industry has come to enjoy fame with his photographs of Tokyo on Instagram. Citing influence from Ridley Scott‘s Bladerunner he tells of how he fell in love with Tokyo as his romantically filtered nighttime neon photographs attest. 

While looking at his work I reflect on my favorite post-war Japanese photographers who also photographed Tokyo at night, capturing this urban, dreamlike underbelly. Photographers like Daido Moriyama, or the terribly under-rated Osamu Kanemura whose disjointed, black and white images of post-industrial, post-war Tokyo couldn’t embody the dystopic imagination more. With rare collections with names like Shockhammer or Spider’s Strategy, they capture the darker, industrial aesthetic that is so different than works on Paris for example. Tokyo emerged from devastation after the war and built itself up in a hyper-modernizing pace as an amalgamation of both industry and pre-modern, Japanese culture. What we in the west see as an exotic juxtaposition actually carries deeper resonance for those in Asia.

This brings us to another city with a relationship between modernizing forces, cultural retention and change:  Kowloon City in Hong Kong.  Japanese photographer Ryuji Miyamoto captured this infamous locale in his works from 1987.  Renowned for his photographs of demolished buildings he carried his expertise at capturing in black and white the detailed layering and texture of industrial decay. Kowloon City, as seen in this footage or Japanese explorers is really interesting  as the creative team highlights attitudes urban Japanese have toward space, density and collections that differ from those in the West who might focus primarily on blight, neglect, and code violations. A longer documentary explains the history of Kowloon City, as one rooted in Chinese resistance to British rule, of creating a self-sufficient city of sorts, albeit one lacking in first world amenities. However, Kowloon City holds powerfully nostalgic value for many 20th century East Asians, as their worlds underwent changes from Colonialism and growing Capitalism. It was an incubator in many ways, a place of liminal transitions, a blurring of post-war ‘village’ with the dark underbelly of industrial urbanism.

When Hong Kong gained its independence and became prosperous, Kowloon City became a blemish from its past, and the government soon set upon demolishing it over a period of many years. Prior to its erasure many architectural and design students from Japan as well as New York rushed to document what they could of this unique walled city. Its impact upon the modern imagination persisted, soon providing a backdrop from everything from kung fu crime movies to science fiction and video games. The anime artist Mamoru Oshii cites it as the basis for his imaginative backdrop in Ghost in a Shell.   The Japanese were so intrigued by Kowloon City that they created a three-story theme park in Tokyo replicating everything they could to preserve its cultural and architectural trace. The documentary footage linked here contains interviews with former residents, historians, artists and designers, all testifying to impact that city had upon post-colonial consciousness and memory.


Future of Gaming and Digital Scholarship

“The Most Dangerous Gamer”

“Never mind that they’re now among the most lucrative forms of entertainment in America, video games are juvenile, silly, and intellectually lazy. At least that’s what Jonathan Blow thinks. But the game industry’s harshest critic is also its most cerebral developer, a maverick bent on changing the way we think about games and storytelling. With his next release, The Witness, Blow may cement his legacy—or end his career. In a multibillion-dollar industry addicted to laser guns and carnivorous aliens, can true art finally flourish.”


“I think the mainstream game industry is a &%$&-up den of mediocrity,” he told me. “There are some smart people wallowing in there, but the environment discourages creativity and strength and rigor, so what you get is mostly atrophy.”

Myself – I’m into museum studies, digital curation, digital archiving, physical archives….and to a lesser extent gaming. But I was once very hooked.  It’s the storytelling, participation and interaction, problem-solving, exploration, information organizing and collecting…all those drives are powerful not just for learning – but for collaborative learning and knowledge-production.

While there is a brilliant but lonely genius to the games of Jonathan Blow…there is something different at play with the studio – http://www.secondstory.com/ – something that connects to and inspires cognitive activity beyond solitary puzzle-solving…

When I think of what is stored in archival repositories like the Harry Ransom Center – and so many other museums – I think about the possibilities of bridging the power of interactive ‘gaming’ with the exploration of Art and Archives. When I recall powerful museum exhibits that transformed me… I think, what can be done to carry gaming further? I am certain that we are only at the beginning, the first steps of realizing what these techological ‘toys’ and digitization methods can ‘do’ for our creative records. We are in an age where there is a simultaneous need to preserve and to integrate knowledge so that we can solve so many of humanity’s problems. The evolution of gaming may hold the key.


Techno-diversity: toward an ecology of (social) networks

In debating the brewing “war” between Facebook, Twitter and GooglePlus it dawned on me that these services are really rather different. It would make greater sense for them to focus on and develop their strengths rather than race to homogenize themselves into identically mediocre platforms.

Twitter does something very unique and the kind of data dynamic that results from Twitters model, the way in which data flows in its network, is very different than that of Facebook because Facebook has primarily been a “walled garden.”  With the advent of groups, news pages, fan/business/institutional pages, this has become less so…but the interaction model is still very different than that of Twitter.  Facebook offers its non-person content files a different sense of “place” – something more static that can more easily collect threads of user content.  Twitter is “faster” and far more impermanent. This is not a better or a worse thing, just different.

Google Plus looks to offer a potentially unique blending of the two. Perhaps this is part of what Facebook is upset about….but one of GooglePlus’ strongest draws so far is its superior social filtering features – the intuitive and usable “Circles.”  See, users liked the ability to post within a walled garden…but we wanted to create rooms.  Facebook’s “lists” (among many other privacy features) were labryinthian nightmares.  But Facebook still has a world of content on there that it should develop ways to respect and protect (enabling searchability, the ability to tag and archive content) rather than trying to run after other services going “Me too!” and cursing the ingenuity of others. If Facebook doesn’t want to go the way of Yahoo’s mistreatment of Flickr or Delicious….it should pull its CEOs out of the parties and think hard about the Information Curation questions from the point of view of its Users (not its commercial sponsors).

I think there could be lots to learn from other network models that had advantages, but suffered executive hubris and neglect.  MySpace was a great site for small businesses and musicians.  Why? Let’s think about this…what could they do on MySpace that they could not do on Facebook?  I’ll touch on some of this later in this post, but feel free to chime in.

Tribe.net…..There is a great amount of content on Tribe.net.  What were the drawbacks in terms of Information Architecture….how did Tribe.net not succeed?  I am not talking about funding or policies..I’m talking primary about Information Architectural models. What was it about Tribe.net that made it “free-er” seeming than Facebook? What was off-putting?

And then there’s Livejournal. I could devote an entire post at least to the lessons we can learn from LJ.  There are many great features it has.  There are surely drawbacks as well.

My primary point however is that all of these need not try to be identical to each other. Yes, they could learn a lot from each other…but it is also good to have choice.  I enjoy Twitter in a different way than Facebook or GooglePlus.  If the latter two could evolve to pick up some of the archiving/search/usability features of LiveJournal….or allow for content promotion (while respecting artists’ content-ownership rights) like MySpace or Flickr….or allow for deep levels of cultural content like Tribe.net….We could really enrich the online cultural environment in ways that 1) in two months or two years content won’t be lost and 2) users could retain ownership of (or at least more easily control) their content rather than be merely providing free consumer research and promotional images and copy.

Facebook/Google+ Wish list

I’m enjoying the migration of personal/professional contacts over to GooglePlus this week and will soon document my thoughts regarding its difference from Facebook, but for now, there are features both networks glaringly do not offer.

I wish that Facebook or GooglePlus had social-bookmarking buttons to delicious.com or diigo.com for example, like published news sites offer.  It would be especially helpful if one is checking one’s feed during a time when one does not have the liberty to read an article, but wishes to flag it for later reading.

I also wish that there was a mechanism like the  ‘memories’ function in Livejournal to save (and tag!) memorable posts. That Facebook has been popular for the past 4 years and one still cannot tag, archive, search or export posts like Livejournal is pretty sad. I don’t know how much Google+ will offer in this regard.  I suspect that between these technical limitations and their ‘we own your content’  TOS,  there might be an uptick in people writing in blogs and using Twitter/FB/G+ for merely social chat and link-sharing.

But yes, there is no digital archiving function in these social networks (at least not personal archiving), nor can one backup one’s content. The lack of any real search or backup for all the other kinds of non-person content (fan pages, groups, institutional and business pages) seems a great risk for content management and data preservation. The librarian in me is bothered by this considerably.  Twitter is (in theory) searchable and is also currently backed up by the Library of Congress. So far the only ones we know is crawling and saving data from Facebook is the NSA.  Google? I have greater expectations for you. Don’t go the Farmville route.

Interactive Narratives for Digital Humanities Gaming

As I witness my 6 year old’s engagement in games like Zombie Farm, with its complex rules and scenarios, I reflect on the tremendous cultural holdings of libraries, museums and archives and wonder how can we engage the next generation in this material? How can we make learning using archives and collections something that can meaningfully compete with traditional gaming narratives stemming from fantasy, horror and science fiction? What are the constructive elements that take content that is scientific, relates to premodern folklore or modern day fears…and translates it to an engaging game?  For decades the gaming industry has rested upon the work done by the pioneers of table-top gaming (D&D, etc.) and arcade games.  In the meantime, educational interactive gaming has not caught up, reamaining trapped in tired metaphors of flash-cards and treasure hunts.

A number of creative and analytical things are on my mind right now….I am in the initially messy stage of compiling issues, factors, observations, possibilities and visions. I am spurred on first by the amazing work of Game Researcher Jane McGonigal who persevered through recovery from a brain injury by creating a game out of it…a game that could prove useful for anyone dealing with recovery (from quitting smoking to perhaps behavioral plans for children with special needs): http://blog.avantgame.com/2010/07/superbetter-ignite-talk-and-kickstarter.html

I am additionally moved by Ali Carr-Chellman’s TED talk about how to re-engage boys in learning through interactive gaming:

It then occurs to me…the metaphors in video games are similar to sports, scouts and to martial arts. They are about ‘leveling up’ (belts, badges, etc.), having ‘allies’, defeating opponents, working with teams, engaging in strategic thinking.

The narrative archs as stated before deal primarily with mythos from European-folklore based fantasy, East Asian folklore, space operas and martial-arts based dramas, Lovecraftian horror, Vampire fiction, Zombie fiction and military scenarios.

Contemporary app. games are gradually deviating from these, but they still in part stem from the original objectives set up in the age of table-top gaming development: mystery-solving, puzzle-solving, collaborative problem-solving with teams.

These are all things that are not found in our school system or museum and archive exhibits.

How can we successfully carry these over to games involving content in historical or cultural archives? How can we make such games familiar in template, engaging and meaningful?

Lastly, because the following videos struck a cord in me that I have yet to completely process in terms of its relevance and application:  The following 4th grade male teacher in Japan uses team and literacy activities to develop social and emotional empathy among children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=armP8TfS9Is

Can we develop games that encourage use and understanding of the materials of cultural heritage while also developing social and emotional literacy? Can we do this through games and activities?

Lots to chew on.

Digital archives, e-reading and what is lost?

Sitting down with a pile of recent New Yorker magazines given to me by a neighbor, eating a bowl of homemade soup, I marveled at how it felt to become engrossed in a medium that did not electronically glow or hum at me. Neither did it tempt with boosts of social-media-induced oxytocin when my interest in the author’s narrative began to waver. My mind felt calm as I fell into the developing piece. I fell happily into a zone unlike the frenetic zipping around on Twitter, or the  emotional juxtapositions on Facebook.

We have studied the brain activity of those online, those watching TV, those playing videogames….we are learning so much regarding how internet and computer use is creating changes in mental pathways. Have we studied the difference between MRIs of print-media readers vs. e-book/ blog/RSS/social a readers?

There is a perceived convenience in compiling, scanning, processing large amounts of citations and PDFs for research….but there is an experiential difference in going through printed articles, piles, folders, and books. I would argue that this experiential, emotional and intuitive difference informs and allows for differently motivated discoveries, reflections and insights.

How much is romantic projection and how much is neurologically accurate? And is there really a difference between those two? Is it a matter of platform? Would I feel differently if the manner in which I interact with the digital archive resembled that of shuffling through piles and pages? Would it be different sitting in a cafe versus sitting in front of my computer like a TV? Would it be different if I were using a touch-screen to move files into bibiliographic software? There are various impediments to my answering that question – limitations having to do with the cost of new equipment, my familiarity with certain software.

Still, is there some loss of serendipity?  Some level of intuitive control and mastery that years of working with paper publications has developed that the comparatively fickle and everchanging technologies of databases and metadata/retrieval systems has made too difficult for many to accomplish? Just when one develops a system of organization do frameworks and schema change and the world is captivated by promising new novelties. Akin to an office changing email platforms every two years, each model claiming improved usability and access…..the most productive professors may still swear by hotmail, Eudora or Pine.  The busiest administrators may still print up every email and file everything in paper stacks. Why? Because if too much went electronic, they know they would lose information. What they have and have done works, because their brain is busy with what else they have mastered.

What does this have to do with electronic reading and archives? Something occurred to me recently while organizing and backing up my files from my classes. I have electronic folders filled with PDFs. I have a delicious.com account swimming in tags. Viewing these files, double-clicking to open them does not invoke the same emotional revelry that relaxed flipping through old readers or paper files does. Is this actual or merely personal?  Is this generational? As a teenager in the late 80’s and early 90’s I would go to Telegraph Ave., equipped with all the latest free weeklies (SF and East Bay Weekly, East Bay Express), the latest Sandman comic books, some article of local poetry from Zeitgeist Press, a used book or two of modern literature or philosophy. Armed with these and a notebook I would order a cappuccino at the Caffe Med, walk upstairs and I would tune out for several hour listening to post-punk on my cassette walkman.

In this manner, I would browse these printed volumes, writing down quotes, book titles, zine publishers, artists names. It was this research activity into literary, cultural and creative works that fueled my acquisition choices as a book buyer in the mid-late 90’s (before corporate culture had me packing off to graduate school).  Gen-X bohemia aside, my important point is…I did not spent the majority of that time trying to figure out how to flip my cassette over, or how to access an article in the back of a magazine or newspaper, or fretting over why I couldn’t find certain comic book issues in my bag or pile on the table. The connection and interaction with information access and recording seemed as smooth and natural as one’s own synaptic flow.   Perhaps those younger than me, the ‘digital natives’ are silently scoffing at my concerns. But I am still curious – how similar or different are these two methods of content discovery?

Fast-forward a couple years – shortly after these early 90’s, outside of library/university records the “social/research web” was limited to usenet groups. I scoured dozens, printing FAQ sheets, discographies, with some vague idea of preservation.  Fifteen years later I realize this kind of activity is what amazes me about current digital archiving practices.  But as I now find articles in printed newspapers and journals and waver between cutting them out to collect yet  “more paper” vs. the time it would take to go online to that journal to seek out the electronic copy of the piece and save the citation in delicious.com (hoping that in future I could retrieve it with compatible metadata or even hope that the url still worked! )…there’s a strong chance things could become lost. I have file drawers of printed pieces from newspapers and magazines from 20-15 years ago, many of which are inaccessible online and out of print.  I am glad that I can peruse and discover articles I did not remember possessing. I also have boxes of notebooks that I wrote things down in. Obviously beside the differences in recording and retrieval there is a dramatic difference in public access. Who else beside myself can access these files or these notes?

I do not have easy answers for these inquiries other than an acknowledgment that these are challenges for both the processing of digital and traditional archives as well as challenges to cross-generational acceptance and standardization of ever changing technological methods of publishing, experiencing and preserving information.

Returning to the notion of measuring qualities of brain activity – is the activity conducted on the early days of the web, usenet groups, similar to that of surfing newsfeeds and engaging in social networking? Is there a difference between this kind of mental activity and that of reading printed material? Is zipping around a printed newspaper or magazine different than that of becoming engrossed in a novel? How is a graphic novel different? Or a video game? What does the MRI of someone reading Dostoevsky or Proust look like?

If human brain pathways are evolving – could we be losing “earlier versions” of our brains? Like languages, dialects and accents are lost…are we losing earlier pathways and structures?  Many studies argue that we are re-mapping our brains through our use of the digital.  What if these lost parts correlate with improved stress reduction or focus or things that we currently try to medicate for? Are there activities that also use these same neural zones? Painting, gardening, yoga?  Do we want to substitute a reading experience that feels like yoga or gardening with a reading experience that feels like navigating a busy freeway? Perhaps for those who enjoy the taste of adrenaline, that has its place…but before we completely switch over our means of informational input (a transition as dramatic as the printing press or discovery of electricity) it might do our mind and creative processes good to fully understand what we are gaining and what we might be sacrificing.