Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Media and the moment

I am a big fan of David Pogue's columns, newsletters, podcasts, blogs, books and - soon - his new TV show, "Its All Geek to Me." This week his Circuits email took on "The Dilemma over Future Storage Formats," a spine-tingling subject for sure.

What's the issue, you ask? Flash drives, DVDs, and every other device we use to store our every-expanding personal media warehouses are time-limited. By the time our kids want to watch our movies of them, neither the storage media or the hardware to read it will still be around. This week, Pogue shares some of the wisdom of those who write to him, including this nugget:

"* “An engineer friend of mine once remarked that if he really cared enough to do so, he would buy up perhaps 30 of every popular storage technology today: CD burners/players, DVD burners/players, new VHS machines (which are becoming scarcer already), and so on. He would warehouse them for 30 years.

“At the end of that time, there would be a very large market for many, many millions of people who had old media in their houses, attics and garages with no clue as to how to rescue them. He postulated this as a can’t-miss get-rich idea for his children and grandchildren.”

So What For Philanthropy?
Foundations bask in their perpetuity. But, as soon as they finish moving all their old paper files into some new fancy digital format, they too will face the "Dilemma Over Future Storage Formats." So, are any of them interested in solving it - not just for themselves but for the rest of us? A lot of philanthropic resources are addressing related questions around media access and media policy (and more resources are needed!). For example, the Mellon Foundation has made huge contributions to open access academic journals, MacArthur to the Creative Commons movement, and Ford to electronic media policy. But what about a millenial media format - using some of the principles of the LongNow Foundation but focused on the practical - to address this media storage issue for all foundations, all archives, all media users and all media creators. In other words, for all of us.

(Full disclosure: My company worked/works with both Ford and MacArthur on parts of their digital media strategies.)

1 comment:

Gayle said...

Hi Lucy,

Used to have a friend who built the search engines at Alexa, which regularly are archive the Internet for prosperity. Remember having a conversation with her that went something like stone tablets last a millennium or more, papyrus a few hundred years or so, paper a couple of generations, record albums a life time, video tapes maybe a decade or more, but digital technology is least permanent of all. Not only are playback machines become obsolete at rapid rates, but the storage media themselves are suspect to damage. One byte lost can destroy an entire file. Of course, the Internet is the most illusive of all, changing and evolving every second. Fortunately there are people like you mentioned working on this, but the meta trend is very interesting indeed.

Fundraising for Nonprofits