Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethical Problems

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Ethical Problems

Article excerpt

Unlike cylinder seals, incised inscriptions, clay tablets, papyri, parchment and paper manuscripts, books, and periodicals-some of which have survived for 6,000 years-many of the scholarly and cultural data that are now stored solely in digital form will be lost through deteriorating storage media (e.g., disks), corporate closures (abandoned servers), or incompatible hardware (outmoded computers). There is little doubt that this is the fate of some of our hard copy materials (including museum artifacts) as well, since infestation, flooding, fire, financial exigency, vandalism, and general lack of care take a toll, but even under the duress of natural or human induced damage, it is possible to rescue and transfer information from devastated hard copy. And in many cases the hard-copy medium can be restored. Extreme examples of this include the painstakingly slow work that has been going on for centuries on the entombed papyri found at Pompeii as well as the swifter completion of the analysis of the scrolls discovered near the Dead Sea. In the former case, it is extremely difficult to unfurl the rolls of lava-encrusted papyri without damaging the text; in the latter, scholars had to scrupulously reconstruct the documents and their texts from thousands of fragmented pieces of parchment (it was as if they toiled to recreate a picture from the remains of a jigsaw puzzle). …

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