Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hanging with the Fam'; Cronkite and the Future of "Papers"; Stargate Universe

Hi. Hope everyone's doing okay.
Last night I had a nice dinner with Ryan, Jamie, and Ciera (who's my cousin. She's in 7th grade and lives in North Austin with her mom, another cousin, Susan). We went out to eat and then went back and played some video games at Ryan and Jamie's house. Ciera likes the video games (and seems to be pretty good at them). I have to admit that it feels sort of strange to have a kid back in the family, with all of the accompanying interests, activities, and attitudes that go along with someone who's 12 years old (it's just been all of us grumpy, lame, old adults for quite some time), but Ciera is a good kid, and it's good to hang out with her!

What else? Walter Cronkite's personal collection of papers, photographs, and other memorabilia is apparently going to be archived and displayed at the University of Texas. University officials have reported that the papers are scheduled to be exhinbited in May.
So that's very cool. Walter Cronkite commanded a sort of respect and admiration that we just don't see very much in the news industry these days. People of all different sorts of backgrounds and political persuasions just really seemed to trust the guy as a journalist.
Anyway, I heard about Cronkite's papers coming to UT, and it just got me sort of thinking about what sorts of records will be available for future archives in regard to our current leaders, newsmakers, and prominent figures. In an age when so much of our communication takes place electronically, how much of our correspondence, written work, and other "papers" will be available for historical preservation? It seems like we put as much or more stuff into written form as we ever have, but what's going to happen to all of it? Will it all continue to be electronically archived indefinitely? Even if we intend to keep it all archived, will the physical hardware that retains these documents continue to stand the test of time?
Well, even paper tends to fade and deteriorate, and paper documents require their own maintenance procedures, but there's something about having important, historical documents archived in only a digital form that makes me a little uneasy (Ryan, who works for UT's digital library, is probably screaming and pulling out his hair if he's reading this). One obvious question that occurs to me is, what will the Mad Max people do after the apocalypse, when the world no longer has a functioning electircal grid and the world is lit only by fire? How will the Mad Max people be able to read up on historical documents without electricity?
These are the questions that keep me up at night, people.

In other news, I caught a couple of episodes of a new Stargate show called Stargate Universe on Syfy over the weekend and last night (well, last night on the DVR), and it's actually not bad. I say this as a person who has watched a number of episodes of other Stargate series over the years and generally found them to be fairly mediocre, and sometimes downright annoying.
While the themes of Stagate Universe aren't exactly original (the characters are stuck in a ship on the far end of the universe without any clear path home- like Farscape, Star Trek Voyager, Buck Rogers, and even in a slightly different form, Battlestar Galactca), this new SGU show has a different feel than most of the prior Stargate shows. The characters seem to have a darker edge to them (they actually seem self involved, short tempered, and display other negative character traits at times without the appearance of a character flaw becoming a major plotpoint of the episode), the settings seem more menacing and mysterious, and less time is spent on exposition and explanation than it has been on prior iterations of the show (it seems like they're assuming that viewers will already know the basics of how things work in the Stargate Universe, or if not, that viewers will figure out the important aspects in short order without needing to have things explained). It also seems, at least so far, like the show has a slightly larger budget than prior shows, or at least is executed with a little more artistry (the insides of spaceships and so forth don't tend to look like cheap props- or at least not so far). The design and execution of the show, from an artistic standpoint, seem to be more in keeping with Battlestar Galactica than with prior versions of the Stargate franchise (which is a big compliment- in my mind, BSG was one of the best looking sci fi shows to ever hit the small screen).
There are still a few things that are a little annoying about the show e.g., (the inclusion of an college dropout, fanboy-type character among the cast seems to be a move that involves some obvious, heavy handed pandering), but the show still seems to hold some promise.
Anyway, it may be too early to tell for sure, but I'm keeping a hopeful eye on Stargate Universe.

Hope you guys have a good day! You Austinites stay out of the rain!


The League said...

Firstly, I am thrilled to hear the collection is winding up at CAH instead of HRC. HRC already has so much cool stuff, CAH needs to be thrown a bone.

Your question is part of what my team is working to solve. What do we do?

The solutions are both complex and simple. Firstly, libraries do not really dispose of important collections of paper-based product, and less important collections usually find a home somewhere if space is an issue.

Digital archives are the librarians bane, but archival systems are being built. The key isn't so much to store the file, its to make the file available in a usable format when MS Word and Adobe Acrobat are no longer concepts.

A lot of what preservationists are doing is finding ways to find single formats, commercial or otherwise, that can be used, so when we all decide to move from Acrobat (or JPEG, etc...) to whatever the next step is, we do it all the same. There are and will be software solutions for this. Add in metadata on every item in a repository, and you've got a lot of info there on what you're handling.

But, yeah, if there's no electricity, you're SOL as of today. So hopefully you've made contingency plans that don't involve power.

J.S. said...

Maybe one of your future projects at work should involve a bicycle- powered generator that can power your servers.