Averting the Digital Dark Age
How Archivists, Librarians, and Technologists Built the Web a Memory
How the internet's memory infrastructure developed—averting a "digital dark age"—and introduced a golden age of historical memory.
In early 1996, the web was ephemeral. But by 2001, the internet was forever. How did websites transform from having a brief life to becoming long-lasting? Drawing on archival material in the Internet Archive and exclusive interviews, Ian Milligan's Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how western society evolved from fearing a digital dark age to building the robust digital memory we rely on today.
By the mid-1990s, the specter of a "digital dark age" haunted libraries, portending a bleak future with no historical record that threatened cyber obsolescence, deletion, and apathy. People around the world worked to solve this impending problem. In San Francisco, technology entrepreneur Brewster Kahle launched his scrappy nonprofit, Internet Archive, filling tape drives with internet content. Elsewhere, in Washington, Canberra, Ottawa, and Stockholm, librarians developed innovative new programs to safeguard digital heritage.
Cataloging worries among librarians, technologists, futurists, and writers from WWII onward, through early practitioners, to an extended case study of how September 11 prompted institutions to preserve thousands of digital artifacts related to the attacks, Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how the web gained a long-lasting memory. By understanding this history, we can equip our society to better grapple with future internet shifts.
About the Author
Ian Milligan (ONTARIO, CANADA) is a professor of history at the University of Waterloo, where he also serves as an associate vice president in the Office of Research. Milligan is the author of The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age and History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web Is Transforming Historical Research.
|Johns Hopkins University Press
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