“We converted more than 200,000 old emails from former chief editors of Helsingin Sanomat – the largest newspaper in Finland,” she says, referring to a pilot project by Digitalia, a digital data preservation project. The converted emails were later stored in a digital archive.
The US Library of Congress famously keeps a digital archive of tweets, though it has stopped recording every single public tweet and is now preserving them “on a very selective basis” instead.
Could public institutions do some digital data curation and preservation on our behalf? If so, we could potentially submit information to them such as family history and photographs for storage and subsequent access in the future.
Kosonen says that such projects would naturally require funding, probably from the public. Institutions would also be more inclined to retain information that is considered of significant cultural or historical interest.
At the heart of this discussion lies a simple fact: it’s hard for us to know – here in the present – what we, or our descendants, will actually value in the future.
Archival or regulatory interventions could go some way to addressing the ephemerality of data. But that ephemerality is something we will probably always live with, to some extent. Digital data is just too convenient for everyday purposes and there’s little rationale for trying to store everything.