“Frame me, and hang me on the wall…”

Medievalists were some of the first folks in the humanities to embrace digital media, so it makes sense that medievalists are now the first to worry about the too-rapid demotion of the humble hard copy. As someone who’s searched in vain for quick and easy ways to transfer files from old Commodore-formatted floppies to a Mac running OS X, I loved Jonathan Jarrett’s nostalgic romp through old Internet protocols and was struck by the wisdom of his observation that digital media aren’t necessarily permanent media:

So keep offline copies and contribute to the Internet Archive, I guess, and remember that we work on sources that survived a thousand years or more because someone wrote them down in ink on skin and someone else, most likely, packed them between wooden boards and then generations of someones else kept them somewhere dry. Your CD-Rs will not last that long, or probably even as long as you do. Also, manuscripts (or books or print journals) don’t need mains power to be read. The low-tech will still be worth thinking about for a while.

That’s his conclusion; go see how he arrives at it. You don’t need to be a medievalist to care about the implications.

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