The Twilight of Digitization Is Now


The Twilight of Digitization Is Now, by Thomas E. Hecker.
"Contemporary wisdom holds that the scholarly community is in transition from a paper-based knowledge system to an electronically based system. 'Twilight' argues that this transition is not sustainable and that constraints on energy resources and other necessary resources will arrest digitization in the not-distant future. Thus, archives in physical formats, not digitized archives, are essential to preserve the scholarly record. "


Not only have wholly digital titles surged, backfiles of printed works continue to be digitized. The benefits of Moore's Law and labor-saving advances in scanning will continue to avert another dark ages.Although libraries have evolved over the years and can be affected by supply and demand, I'm not sure how reindeer ecology, Easter Island, and a supposedly enroaching stone age due to dwindling oil supply are that relevant to this topic.

Wow. That was ... Malthusian. In tone at least. I don't mean to imply that the author is making the same mathematical mistakes as Malthus did in theorizing catastrophic resource failure. And what an interesting juxtaposition with the item on publishers not using recycled paper ...

I'm sorry that he did not cite Nicholson Baker's Double Fold directly, although he certainly cited articles influenced by the work. Besides, if he's predicting such catastrophic failures of materials resources that you can't power enough nodes to form an IT network, are we really going to have enough power for 1) photographing text to microform and 2) the readers/projectors needed to read the darned thing. Most aren't exactly legible to the naked eye.

Also: no mention of born-digital materials ... it's not simply that publishers are phasing away or de-emphasizing electronic over print in some areas ... there's increasing amounts of information that were never meant to, and might never be, printed on a sheet of paper. Are we supposed to give up on these?

Overall, an thought-provoking take on how economies (and ecologies) can impact information. He could have taken it broader and deeper and spelled out more of his assumptions.

And this could just be me, but I kept on thinking of Isaac Asimov's short story, "Nightfall," while reading the article. Which kept making me giggle. Which is obviously the wrong response to this.

I'm not at all sure that giggling is the wrong response to that paper. I've got to read it again, in paper form...but I wonder whether a tongue was implanted in an authorly cheek. (Anonymous because of cowardice and not wishing to be stupidly mistaken in this case.)

Interestingly, it's another SF classic that this article kept bringing to my mind: A Canticle for Leibowitz , by Walter M. Miller. And I'm not giggling, either.

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