Monday, March 19, 2007

stripmining your heritage

No, I am not going to harp on that accumulating mountain of refuse that each and every one of us should, according to scolding filmstrips, slowly be buried under, as punishment for its production. And I've already commented on the valuation of one's personal garbage long, long ago, in the first term of Bush.

Today it's simpler. Those things that are between the intrinsically valuable and abject rubbish, photo albums and aborted novels and, well, blogs-- how might one track their afterlife or affect? Think about the things you have touched that someone else attempted, things you should not throw away, cannot sell, and would elicit odd stares if displayed proudly on your end table. Your great-uncle's attempt at oil nudes. Old four-track recordings. And the steadily aggregating mass of letters and notes from people long gone that must now only accelerate and overwhelm in an age of archived electronic communication. Will our children be forced to comb through viagra advertisements and bill notifications to find the buried warmth of a love messaged to their mother?

I am thinking of a future in which the incredible mass of personal digital information grows to the point to which you can no longer peruse a dead relative's old possessions. They now must be mined. They will be sorted, catalogued automatically, and displayed using an application not unlike (perhaps the same as) itunesyoutubeflickr. Your grandchildren won't have access to your soul, but they will have 24 hour control over the collected sum of your experiences, aspirations, and frustrations. And you will have nothing to say about it.

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