Digital Amnesia

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Focusing on the vulnerability of digital data, Digital Amnesia ponders the sustainability of modern artefacts that have no material state. Notable archivists share their perspectives on the Digital Age and whether it poses great promise or threat to the longevity of digital information and our collective memory.

Of the many quirky and amicable characters interviewed throughout the film, one of the most notable is Brewster Kahle, the passionate and energized founder of Internet Archive, whose mission is to preserve the Internet itself. Kahle explains his organization’s purpose, highlighting the Wayback Machine website where users can access snapshots of pages long defunct.

Though the Archive exists primarily in the digital realm, Kahle guides us through the Archive’s physical headquarters, cautioning viewers that without a reminder of our past we’re destined to live in “an Orwellian state of the constant present.” Kahle’s affable sense of sentimentality is especially evident when he reveals a room populated by honorary statues built to resemble his long-term employees and pioneers of the Internet.

Dr Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria, bears a similar sentimental side during his travels to Amsterdam, where he intends to rescue a vast collection of books on the verge of destruction. As he sits in a room lined with strikingly barren shelves, he proclaims books should be honoured and respected as “living pieces of memories.”

Alexander Rose, director of The Long Now, explains that the ephemeral nature of digital data combined with the rapid-pace obsolescence of recording technology guarantee a loss of material unmatched by previous methods of preservation. He later introduces the concept of the 10,000-year clock, a project run by The Long Now, as a symbol of “long-term thinking.” Designed to contrast the lightning pace of the modern attention span, the gargantuan mechanical clock is set to tick once a year for ten thousand years.

A thoughtful film with a cautionary angle, Digital Amnesia grants viewers insight into the role of the archivist in perpetuating information across time, profiling just some of the people working to ensure current generations leave their mark in history, and that future generations may benefit from the lessons learned.

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