Digital Nostalgia: There is no forgetting
Since our discussions of digital culture seem to encapsulate so many emotive elements, it stands to reason that they would include one for nostalgia. In the interests of research bias disclosure, I must forewarn that I am a nostalgic sort. Sitting here knee deep in the throngs of a Princeton autumn lends itself to that, to remembrance of things past (Proust=the original glitch in the Matrix, a fading sense of memory), to plans made, to friends lost and found. Continuing on this thread, I began to wonder what the memory of digital culture might look like. What our collective nostalgia might refer to.
We often assume the tapestry of all this memory, the Internet, is a fickle, fleeting, ephemeral beast. Indeed, it is, not unlike casual conversation, awkward glances, sights, sounds, and smells. In isolation, they are easily forgotten. However, someone remembered to remember in this instance. Someone recorded it all (birth of religion? an entity that remembers all and therefore predates all?). It exists in digital and physical form. It is a collective knowledge store of ephemeral events. It is called the Internet Archive and it is basically a snapshot of the Internet taken on regular intervals. It captures iterations of sites over a course of time, sites long since forgotten, and stores them perpetually. Fittingly, it is located at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new edifice built on top of the ruins of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt. It is a record of our digital culture; every conversation, every thread, every passing fancy of it.
Curious to revisit what interfaces looked like in 1997? Give it a whirl. I personally came directly to the birth of my interactive phase with the Internet. When I began to help write it. A 2001 version of Blogger. You can try as well through the portal at the Internet Archive. Remind yourself how you have changed with the interfaces, with the spacing, the coloring, how your perception has altered along with the container presenting information. We are bound in a nutshell, counting ourselves kings of infinite space.
So what does nostalgia mean? As the Library of Congress attempts to do a Twitter archive, I find myself wondering and questioning. Is life fleeting if we are able to capture it? Can nostalgia mean anything when we have artefacts everywhere? What will it mean to forget, or will that become anachronistic? Will life, both digital and otherwise, be a perpetual present?
I leave you with my childlike (infantile?) fascination with the elevator at the Cecil Hotel in Alexandria, once the home of Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, and me (for a week). An anachronistic elevator, a Flip camera, me, and YouTube will forever immortalize it. There is no forgetting.