On The Conservation of Technological Culture

Posted: April 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

It is true that digital representation is very abstract and easily lost, but the same goes for any other ‘written’ representation. All meaning is context dependent.

It’s very hard to make anything last. Maybe making things last is not the point. Maybe we should be looking at a living (rather than archived) culture, one that is passed down like an oral tradition and the meaning is in the enacted traditions, language and social relations that encompass culture.

Ones and zeros are abstract, but the code that humans write to interact with computers is no different than any other text. The solution to the problem of loss over time is to treat technological development as a cultural enterprise. Imagine if the family computer was maintained by the family. It’s passed down and reworked from parents to children generation after generation. It’s fixed, rethought, and rebuilt, and always reflects the culture.

That which is fixed cannot reflect a culture that is always changing. All it takes is will and maintenance to make any technological product last, we all just need the knowledge and means of production to do it.