1. Sharad
    January 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm


    Sounds like you’re swimming dangerously close to Plato and Wittgenstein. (Maybe “digital material culture” or “digital cultural heritage” would sound more appropriate.) Constantly reinterpreting objects thanks to continued advances in technology.

    Prior, erroneous/flawed conclusions still hold a place, because they provide insight into
    1) the time required to reach a more accurate conclusion
    2) the limitations in technology and understanding that led to earlier conclusions

    Best I can think of is early medical practices. A person has an illness, and it is misdiagnosed, and a physician gives the patient a nice healthy dose of leeches.

    With regards to digital objects, retaining the context of earlier, archaic material is problematic, because there’s this continued push towards creating some kind of alternate, man-made reality which serves as some Promethean escape, and which offers all information instantaneously–creating virtual omniscience. It’s unrealistic… (but we’re still getting there!). How do you tell that child who has a phone that produces holograms that you used to send handwritten letters and call people on a rotary phone? Maybe they can grasp it, but they can’t appreciate it.

    (Then again, I don’t think I would “appreciate” living in a cave a hunting with a spear as much as I enjoy getting a burger with fries from Five Guys.)

  2. Bill LeFurgy
    January 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Sharad: I’ve been accused of consorting with worse than Plato and Wittgenstein, let me assure you! I do agree with you that keeping track of earlier erroneous conclusions is important, to the extent that they are captured in content streams of wider interest (such as journals). Regarding provenance, I will confess to an archival orientation that looks for solid documentation of origin and context. It’s not always possible to document this as much as some would like, and all information in any form is subject to creeping obscurity, but I see an enduring need for doing the best we can to keep context alive.

  3. Sharad Shah
    January 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Totally agree. At the same time, this topic reminded me of a few projects I worked on involving entering metadata on architecture. Over time, many of the buildings were either renovated or changed ownership, and while the name of the structure (as it was) could easily be entered in the metadata, there was a question of adding its previous and future names–for means of linking that particular image to a larger series and providing researchers with a better understanding of change over time.

    And what if some new, factual information was later discovered (i.e. the name of the building’s owners was routinely misspelled, or the name of the street had changed over time)? It’s the little things. But in the immortal words of They Might Be Giants:

    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
    Why they changed it, I can’t say
    People just liked it better that way

  4. Carl Diehl
    January 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring post. For clarification of my Metaphortean musing —the missing metadata in my characterization of ongoing information management as paleontological are “Foreverism” and “Forbidden Paleontology.” These concepts were cross-wired in the Metaphortean Space in hopes of yielding new insight. Foreverism being trendwatching.org’s suggested marketing strategy of permanently generating new content and sites for client interaction. Forbidden Paleontology being the title of a non-normative science concerning excavation of ancient technological artifacts that would seem to throw conventional chronology into a tizzy.

    Forever Paleontology could be described as the “poor-person’s omniscience.” The Forever Paleontologist, hypothetical denizen of the near-future, seeks to maintain a semblance of chronology in his/her increasingly non-linear existence online. Daily routines of linking, searching and sifting provide makeshift continuity by way of pattern-recognition over time. Sentiment becomes sediment, or vice-versa, as out-of-place articles are uncovered (again), jogging one’s memory. Speculatively, Forever Paleontology is also a repressed desire to keep one’s “inboard brain” active lest evolutionary forces, in an ironic homage to the aforementioned Lucy, lobby for a reduction in the cranial quarters.

  5. Bill LeFurgy
    January 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Carl: Thanks for your comment. I noticed that your post had the page title of “Forbidden Paleontology,” which I found intriguing, especially from a preservationist perspective. Your take on the The Forever Paleontologist is wonderful. I can only hope that somewhere Lucy is smiling.

  6. Erika Toman
    January 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Clearing the clear-cuts!?!

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