Thursday, October 06, 2011

Digital legacy

I hope readers don’t find this post morbid. I certainly don’t intend it to be. I intend it to be practical.

A few days ago I was listening to a radio program and heard mention of a company called “Legacy Locker.” The idea is that if something were to happen to us, so much of our lives are online, yet our loved ones seem to have no standing to reclaim our online existence.

This company offers a service that, in the event of your demise, they will send your passwords and online info to designated loved ones.

I must admit, it’s something I’ve thought about. Yet, to me, there’s even a broader context here.

How do you “preserve” a blog, or e-mails or such? For centuries historians have relied upon the written record for an eye witness account of a historical period, or even just a flavor of the times. What will future historians do now that most of us seldom send snail-mail letters or keep paper journals?

I don’t mean to say that I’m offering any content so profound that it’s worthy of saving – yet I know when I read historical things, it’s not always the profound I find most interesting. It’s the every-day grind from the past that can be most interesting.

I remember several years ago my mother, who was living overseas, got some things out of storage. Among the items tucked away in shoe boxes were letters she had written her parents from Vietnam in 1969. She served as a Red Cross worker during the war.

The letters never made comment about larger geo-political happenings. Still, they were fascinating. It was interesting to hear what she wanted most from home and about her every day duties. Someday I’m sure a historian would find them valuable.

But, what about today? Is anyone preserving the blogs of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan?

And this little humble blog…perhaps what seems boring to me today and hardly worth even writing down would have a different meaning to a historian 200 years from now. Perhaps then the whole concept of medicine and living with chronic illness will be radically different then and a patient perspective would take on a whole different meaning.

Yet, how do you preserve something fluid like this? Even if my immediate family can access it after I’m gone, who would even know to look for it centuries from now?

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