Sunday, February 28, 2016

When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future

"Today, we stand at the very edge of a vast, uncharted digital landscape, where our collective memory is stored in ephemeral bits and bytes and lives in air-conditioned server rooms. What sources will historians turn to in 100, let alone 1,000 years to understand our own time if all of our memory lives in digital codes that may longer be decipherable?" from the publisher's website

After seeing When We Are No More by Abbey Smith Rumsey on NetGalley I couldn't stop thinking about it--the topic was too fascinating. I was thrilled to be granted the book.

Rumsey carefully builds her story, considerings how humans have remembered since Adam and Eve, through the revolutionary development of writing cuneiform on clay tablets, to the proliferation of books via the printing press, the establishment of libraries, to the digitalization of knowledge. She shows how each advancement brought change and challenges as humanity coped with how to store, access, and control the ever growing data bank of human knowledge. Then she presents the challenges presented by the digitalization of knowledge and the precariousness of a digital cultural memory.

Humanity must find the thin line between the distraction of novelty and amnesia and loss of past wisdom which we may need when facing future challenges. Issues of privacy and copyright law vs. the ideal of an open Internet, and the commercialization of data are also issues needing to be addressed. With the overwhelming amount of digital data, deciding what we can 'afford' to lose, and what must be preserved, becomes a major concern.

The book is written in three parts.
Part One: Where We Come From looks at human memory, the development of writing, the printing press, and the library.
Part Two: Where We Are considers Materialism, Science, how we remember, imagination, and mastering memory in the digital age.
Part Three: Where We Are Going considers the questions that we must answer that will ensure a continuation of cultural memory into the future.

Rumsey had created a beautifully written, important book.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future
Abbey Smith Rumsey
Bloomsbury Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
$28.00 hard cover

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