As I routed around Google for resources on digital materiality, I stumbled upon a video that spoke to something I’d been thinking about while reading Kirschenbaum: digital archiving and its relationship to digital materiality.
I’ve been having conversations with the reference staff at my local library lately as I start to work on my final project for this class, and it seems as though the staff is currently divided on the issue of digital archives. One faction sees the need for digitization of newspapers and letters in the local history archives, citing the benefit of reaching a wider audience and preserving that which is beginning to deteriorate with age. The opposing group of librarians feels that digitizing archival material is a “waste of time” because of (in Kirschenbaum’s terminology) the ephemerality of the digital.
Keeping this on-going battle between local librarians in mind, I searched for a resource on digital materiality that would perhaps speak about archiving. I found the Library of Congress video, “Why Digital Preservation is Important for Everyone.” The video addresses the LoC’s concerns about the preservation of digital archives – concerns that at first seem to echo those of my local librarians. However, as the video progresses, we hear that the LoC is not concerned with the loss of digital content due to the erasure of records or the failure of web-based documentation. Rather, they go beyond this simplistic concern and wander into Kirschenbaum’s territory by focusing on the importance of preserving both the physical software and hardware that makes accessing their digital media possible. When they discuss the possibility of losing texts, they address a need to remember that the materiality of digital content is crucial.