|Digital Archaeology, sponsored by Google, during IWNY2011.|
The World Wide Web is only twenty years old. Hard to believe, isn't it? Considering how seemlessly it integrated into our lives on a daily basis. This is the history that the Google-sponsored Digital Archaeology exhibit hoped to revisit. Things we may take for granted today—GPS, texting, intuitive interfaces, sheer portability and speed—owe their existence to the experiments that preceded them.
The exhibit highlights 28 influential websites calling attention to the need to archive these sorts of records. Creator Jim Boulton points out that as influential as the web has been, there is no trace of the first web page to be found—"not even a screen shot."
But the exhibit is as much a nostalgic review of hardware as well. Part of the exhibit are the items of the day: An early Powerbook, a Gameboy, a modem—the archaic equivalents of today's tablets and smartphones. These are artifacts that entire generations will only know of by hearsay because they have passed from public memory. What's more, these artifacts trace the ways in which our society has changed by following the technological timeine: the rise of portability, the changing design aesthetics, our literary inclinations.(A Wired accompanied each station, and it grew progressively thinner as the years passed. Wired was once a tome-like production.)
We don't often think too much about the lifespan of digital elements. Perhaps we take their impermanence for granted, accepting that they can disappear overnight. This acceptance manifests as indifference, but perhaps it's time to reconsider what constitutes our history. The few cuneiform tablets that have survived are integral to the documentation of our social development. The web—and these artifacts—have much to add.
To see some of the artifacts on display, please visit the album. If you'd prefer a more animated review, thedroidguy has a nice walkthrough here: