Does history have a future in the digital age?

A few weeks back, I wrote about how videogames are informing and changing our conception of history and the way we experience its most important tool: the archive. A more pressing question might be how the literal construction of history is beginning to change as more of our collective experience enters into what George Dyson calls the “digital universe.”The Economistreports:

The Smithsonian is collecting materials, but has not made their efforts public. The New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library aresaid to be collecting documents by sending representatives to sites to grab flyers and posters. 
But OccupyArchive is not walking along sidewalks; they are grabbing items virtually. They have set up an automated Flickr importer to collect anything labelled with a Creative Commons license and an Occupy hashtag. When mining web sites, they look for anything they can tag and supplement with metadata: “If there are press materials and individual meeting minutes posted, we grab those too,” Ms Leon says. They are not archiving tweets, because Twitter’s terms of use requires permission from the tweeter. “Since the Library of Congress is archiving all tweets,” Ms Leon notes, “we are letting them take care of Twitter.”
It takes a nimble staff and savvy tools to find and organise this instant history. The larger and more print-based the institution, the slower the wheels turn. Ms Leon is proud of the centre for being flexible enough to shift gears to create this archive, and of the academic volunteers who are manning the monitors.
In the digital age, we are recording ourselves obsessively. There is no shortage of media coming out of the Occupy movement. But we are not archiving ourselves or our media with anywhere near as much alacrity. Without some system for organising, collating and preserving the Facebook pages, YouTube videos and blogs the movement is generating, the materials may be lost. For archivists, the question is not whether Occupy movement has political legs, but if its history has a future.

The problem with unarchived and uncontrolled digital objects is, despite its aura of impermanence, the material disintegrates far more rapidly than the physical heft of, say, a book. This holds a special relevance for games as publishers move over to digital distribution and rights management to have better control over their IP. Curators and archivists should look to platforms like Steam as they make further leaps into the digital realm. 

[via The Economist]