I've been neglecting this blog lately because of a science fiction project I've started that covers many of the topics I've mentioned here. I figure it's still useful for me to keep my thinking in these directions going, though, in order to stay engaged.
Instead of theorizing I've been pursuing a more artistic approach to abandoned things.
A particular quotation from Hakim Bey's texts about the "haunted" or "gothic" feeling that pervades the Web has been stuck in my mind.
In fact, just as Gibson predicted, the Net is already virtually haunted. Web cemeteries for dead cyber-pets---false obituaries---Tim Leary still sending personal messages---ascended masters of Heaven's Gate---not to mention the already vast lost archaeology of the Net, its ARPA levels, old BBSs, forgotten languages, abandoned Webpages. In fact, as someone said at the last NETTIME conference in Ljubljana, the Net has already become a kind of romantic ruin. And here, at the most "spectral" level of our analysis, suddenly, the Net begins to look...interesting again. A bit of gothic horror. Seduction of the Cyber Zombies. Fin-de-millennium, hothouse flowers, laudanum.And don't forget The Ghost of William S. Burroughs.
from Seduction of the Cyber Zombies
I'll have to find this NETTIME post. He shifts into Stinerian Anarchist gear after that and abandons the image. Not sure how I feel about the article as a whole, but I love the title. The interesting problem with the archeology metaphor that we both adopt is that previous layers - the ARPAnet, ancient BBSes, for example - are most likely completely gone, or at least completely inaccessible. Some of the files might be floating around but our access to old systems diminishes as software and hardware progresses. A prime example is the Firefox / Gopher:// debate, which I'll go into later.
I know very little about Earth archeology, but it seems to me that in most circumstances physical objects stick around for a bit longer than a few decades. I realize that there are probably many barriers to accessing or preserving physical artifacts, but the complete disappearance or inaccessibility of digital information haunts me in a way that seems specific to this technological era.