Sometimes the changes that digital culture brings are best articulated through our nightmares:
A Calgary man is desperate to get his stolen laptop, with years of work on it, back.
It was stolen from the trunk of his car while he went for a run in Edworthy Park Wednesday night.
John Boldt is pleading for the return of his hard drive, which contains research and notes for the thesis he was writing for his master's degree in history. He only had three chapters left to write before his paper was complete.
Unless he gets it back, Boldt will have to abandon his dream and quit at the University of Calgary.
According to Gawker, his backups were stolen at the same time.
If poor John had been typing his manuscript, or writing it out by hand, there'd be earlier drafts he might recover.
I spent part of the summer researching at the Olaf Stapledon archive at the University of Liverpool, and as I poured over his handwritten lecture notes and meticulous revisions I was struck again that the scholars decades hence eager to study me will have almost nothing to look at beyond the disorganized 'Documents' folder on my Mac. The history of my revisions is almost entirely nonexistent -- and of course I write Tweets, not long letters.
Digital culture is leaving behind a very different sort of archive for the future, and in many ways a far less complete one. In the meantime, let's all learn the lesson of John Boldt: always backup, to multiple drives, including at least one off-site...