Memento 2.0: How Do Your Memories Live Online?
The past two days of work have provided me with an amazing sight: people lined up outside The Post's building on 15th Street NW to buy copies of Wednesday's "Obama Makes History" paper. On Wednesday afternoon, the queue stretched all the way up 15th to M, then curled around that street corner -- a long wait to buy something that normally lasts less than 24 hours before landing in a recycling bin or the bottom of a bird cage, but, as one reader said, "You can't put a computer screen into a scrapbook."
As a journalist and as a citizen, I found this an extraordinarily moving thing to witness.
I understand the impulse behind it, too. I have a few old newspaper editions tucked away, and my own copy of Wednesday's Post will join them... once I remember where that box is upstairs. (Note that if you want to display that front page on a wall, you'll have to take a little more care with it.) As my colleague John Kelly mused yesterday, perhaps it's the limited, ephemeral nature of a newspaper that makes it worth keeping around -- come to think of it, in the same way that a World Series ticket stub makes for a far more powerful memento than a World Series t-shirt.
But as more and more of our news exists primarily or only as a sequence of bits, we can't count on having these physical keepsakes. What do we do then? How do you memorialize an exuberant comments thread on a blog post or a series of ecstatic Facebook status updates when those pages could move or disappear? Does a Flickr gallery of screenshots of newspaper home pages from the night of November 4th pack the same emotional wallop as a single copy of the paper that landed on your front porch the next day?
In short, how do you make something permanent in a medium built on constant change? For me, the only answer to come to mind is "print out and frame a screen capture." What about you? How do you extract a memento from the online world?
November 7, 2008; 12:36 PM ET
Categories: Digital culture , The business we have chosen
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