Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Openness of Information-Communications Systems: The Rescue Tool for Preserving Information Age Heritage

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Openness of Information-Communications Systems: The Rescue Tool for Preserving Information Age Heritage

Article excerpt


From the first days of human history, people wanted to store information in order to establish collective memory for future generations. The history of information storage started in pre-historic time--the first stage achieved by writing or putting art on stones and walls. The process of information storage development is continuously increasing information density and the need for more and more sophisticated tools to gather and read information from various media. Hence, the electrical storage techniques of the late 19th century discarded old media formats in favor of an electrical recording. At the same time, these techniques also introduced a crucially new dimension of storage medium--the interface, as the way to represent and control the signal bearing data. It changed how media function. Media properties were no longer dependent solely on the data stored inside but also on the tools that provided interfaces to these data. The move to digital data and digital media software in twentieth century extended this principle further. Since almost all data were encoded in digital form, they could be accessed only by programmed interface. Consequently, digital media properties are now defined by the computer programs instead of being contained in the actual content.

The relations between electro-magnetic techniques developed in the second half of the nineteenth century and digital media developed 100 years later highlights some interesting points. While preceding reproduction technologies retained the original form of media, the new discarded it and an electrical signal became the base for any kind of data recording. In other words, these technologies introduced coding as a way to store and transmit media (Manovich, 2013). Further, the way we form memories in the information age is under the interaction with external information repositories, making possibilities for a new era in which we will store less information inside our brains.

Information sources interlinked through communications networks as well as human activities becoming increasingly reliant on communication have become the foundation of the information age. As Edwards, Edwards, Wahl, and Myers (2012) pointed out, we are currently in the communication age where all members of a society are connected through the Internet, not just to it. These new information technologies have decreased the need for brain power, particularly with respect to that area of the brain used to memorize stuff for a short time span. Individual memory, however, shapes the personality. Moreover, the sum of individual memories shapes the collective memory. Hence, memory becomes an important part of culture (Carr, 2011).

In the years since its start in 1992, UNESCO's Memory of the World Program has supported dozens of preservation projects intended to preserve original documents from human history. The program is designed to maintain a register of important collections from the earliest history to modern times, all of which urgently require preservation. Our entire heritage needs to be preserved in a form that will enable its consumption by future generations. And, unless an intensive international effort is made to digitize our information heritage, the knowledge we have today will fade away. Sooner or later, all old magnetic records will not be playable, even as old replay machines are disappearing. In fact, even where we have preserved collections of documents, we will not have the tools to access them. Ironically, we have found old paper to be more stable than paper from the modern times, much of which gradually loses its readability as time passes.

Solutions that involve digitization of the paper texts need to incorporate their context. This digital content is in a form such that storage of individual media or interconnected hypermedia is executed through a variety of technologies. Hence, a uniform communications system is prerequisite for fully operable open systems where Information-Communication systems provide a huge set of information that can be accessed as the information commons by anyone, anywhere, and any time. …

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