Yahoo!’s Time Capsule and farming knowledge

Hot on the heals of the overwhelmingly rich Dropping Knowledge Initiative comes Yahoo!’s Time Capsule.

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As the Time Capsule’s site describes:

For 30 days, from October 10 until November 8, Yahoo! users worldwide can contribute photos, writings, videos, audio – even drawings – to this electronic anthropology project. This digital data will be gathered and preserved for historical purposes.

In addition to submitting your own content, you can view, read, or hear the images, words, and sounds contributed by users from around the world.

You can also comment on the content you and others have submitted – and engage in a digital conversation that is just as revealing and important as any of the content you’ll witness.

There are a couple of mostly banal entries from Sri Lanka, but who are we to judge thus given that this content is for posterity? Yahoo!’s site says eternity, but that’s based on the problematic assumption that the digital media we created today can be archived and viewed indefinitely. Hell, even for a decade, I’d like to have my two cents on Hope, Beauty and Anger stored online – an element of narcissism yes, but for some who contribute, surely a way to pass on a message to future generations, in light of the uncertainty of our collective zeitgeist today.

As with Dropping Knowledge’s multiple interfaces to search through the knowledge and content on the site, Yahoo!’s Flash based interface is intuitive and deals well with the plethora of content already online. Again, the assumptions behind the use of Flash are interesting – more for the knowledge that is left out, than for what is contained within.

Furthermore, both sites work best on broadband, which itself limits the generation of knowledge in them (and by extension, whatever that is archived for posterity) to largely a first world / US centric audience – the Time Capsule certainty much more limited in this sense than Dropping Knowledge, which generated content very differently.

Both initiatives, however, are inspirational, and show a world grappling to archive and make sense out of an exponential increase in the generation of digital content, most of which will not be archived.

More knowledge will be lost in this century than in all preceding centuries.Though the Time Capsule and Dropping Knowledge are harbingers of vast knowledge farming exercises to come, they will nevertheless gather and archive a fraction of content produced by thinkers, academics, writers, media, youth, children, women, citizens.

Our greatest challenge in this century will be to visualise information differently, move beyond Google, and capture what is of value to individuals as well as humanity in a virtual Library of Congress.

See also:
Indexing knowledge – Designing search engines for conflict and peace research

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