most days, todays e-mail contained not less than 50 spams,
with subject headings indicating the usual get-rich-quick schemes,
Viagra availability, putative photos of "hot barnyard action,"
and seemingly prescient advice about my hair loss problem. Id
be hard pressed to provide a more detailed inventory of these e-mails
because, per usual, I deleted them all immediately. But I was thinking:
even if I hadnt put todays spam into the trash
even if I had intentionally archived these unsolicited texts on
some form of optical or magnetic storage medium in 30 or
40 years Id probably still be unable to tell you their contents.
By then, the hardware and software needed to retrieve the data would
most likely be obsolete, and the media itself would probably have
deteriorated to the point of failure, since as yet there is no digital
storage medium that is anything like "archival." These
are problems with digital media that many people have been putting
off thinking about. In the visual arts they are called preservation
issues ones that museum curators and conservators are less
at liberty to put off thinking about. Not that "barnyard action"
constitutes such an urgent preservation issue (although in 30 or
40 years it is sure to be of historical and anthropological interest).
Rather, its useful to consider spams inherently transient
nature, and its place along a continuum of more or less durable
text-based media artifacts. At least its useful to me, since
Ive been traveling around Europe photographing and thinking
about some of the worlds oldest media artifacts, located at
the opposite extreme of that continuum.