On This Day: Posterity in the Internet Age

by Indiana… on Thursday, 13 October 2011

Four score and seven internet ages ago—also known as one earth year—you were as inane as you are today, if not more so, it seems inconceivable…but Facebook tells me it is so.

Hmm maybe I should express myself with angsty song titles, that'll be edgy and current…

"How could I be so slow, so foolish, so myself…" thus seems to be a question many are increasingly asking as result of  the 'On This Day' on Facebook and why not, when a status slips quickly off the news feed and even faster out of our minds it tempting to imagine it is gone forever. I can't remember what I said at this time a week ago, let alone a year ago so I hardly expected Facebook to. But whilst it is dubious as to whether the 'On This Day' feature is meant to serve any purpose other than remind you what a gigantic tool you used to be/are, the 'On This Day' feature (in the very loose interpretation of the meaning of 'feature') is an interesting reminder that your internet 'legacy' doesn't decay or even ferment like your 'physical' one; while no one on the internet may know you are a dog, whilst the servers are up, they can—for the most part—see exactly how and when you barked.

This 'revelation' can seem little bit frightening but though your data may be skimmed as part of millions of data sets for most of us no one in particular is looking at us, in particular. However for any one interested in posterity, or presenting a coherent online identity—business people take note, this does raise an interesting dilema as i
nternet history is not written in the end by the conquerors but by the copiers and the commentators.

For when a site or an article goes down the reception lives on as the 'official' narrative, even if that is simply a snide comment about the quality, which to any historically minded readers may not seem so novel but the swift pace of the internet makes this more of an issue than ever, as one can see this happen not over the course of lifetimes but years and in some cases even months.

Five Players near complete disappearance from the internet is exemplary of this; search thoroughly for the erstwhile bastion of quality games writing and you'll be lucky to be met with anything beyond an abandoned twitter and the now broken links from sites like this. It is as if Five Players never really existed, its spectral internet footprint the only clue of its former existence. Made all the more shocking when you consider this was a fairly popular site that closed April 11th, so scant months ago and already it has sunk below the internet's waves of content. 

(If any one has an archive of Five Player's writings, for some reason, I'd love to see it)

Which all seems very doom and gloom—I mean goodness now I'll need to update our blog roll—but what one hand takes the other gives away: there was a little known band called Haberdasher who released a 300 run LP called Songs On Love nos 48602-48608 back in '97, an album which from the off was as bound to be as interesting as it was doomed to commercial failure. And there is where the story ended for quite some years; members went on to form OXES and More Dogs, the LP remained firmly a interesting local oddity and all lived happily ever after.

Skip forward 
14 years and now they are getting publicity from blogs like this, which bar the fact the album was some excellent post rock (on a par with the fabled 'Spiderland', if not quite as landmark, in my own opinion) seems quite odd at first sight considering most of these articles are written by people who couldn't have heard of Haberdasher when they were new…until one notices an increasing proliferation of the album on the slightly more 'murky' parts of the internet over the last few years.

In both these cases the results where almost entirely out of the control of the content creators; the message is now an old one but growing ever more important "content has a life of its own" for good or ill.

Leave your comment