Talk about nightmares for creative people! Dennis Cooper, a novelist, poet, performance artist, and more, entrusted Google-owned Blogger with most of his artwork over the past 14 years. It’s gone now.
Visitors just see notification that “denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com has been removed.”
While the Cooper blog contained some sexually explicit material, it appeared with an 18+ alert. The sex may or may not have been the reason for Cooper’s blog going AWOL. But one message comes through loud and clear. We can’t trust for-profit corporations to undertake long-term preservation, as my friend Beth Wellington discovered some years back. Google is a great example of the risks here.
Now The Digital Reader is beating up on Cooper for not backing up his work as he went along. Obvious! But also consider that it’s tough enough being a writer or an artist with only so much time or money. Furthermore, as Nate Hoffelder at TDR acknowledges, some platforms lack provisions for easy backups.
Beyond the wisdom of backups, the real message I’m getting is that libraries should worry more about born-digital content. Here’s a dream for the future. As a recognized writer and performance artist, Cooper could have archived his work at a trustworthy library site as he went along. Perhaps he would have paid a small fee. But with the right APIs and infrastructure in place, the process could have been a lot less cumbersome than it is now. That’s not the only factor to consider. While backup services exist, they are only short-term solutions. Like commercial blogging platforms and others, they can go out of business.
The optimal solution for the ages would be national digital library systems with sustainable financing and low-thresholds for creators to qualify for free long-term preservation of their work. Those not qualifying could still enjoy eternal storage through payment of reasonable fees even if their output was not the center of attraction of search engines. Later, should critics rediscover their words, images or sounds, they could also be included in the main shows.
Meanwhile, for institutions wanting long-term storage—this plan isn’t for individuals—a one possibility might be paid services from the Internet Archive, shown in the larger photo.
Digital preservation of text is hard enough. Audio, images, animation and video are far more difficult. Interactive combinations of those elements raise the level of difficulty exponentially.
Authors of such works are the only ones in a position to preserve the source files that become essential in making the work available to current audiences.
Take the example of Myst. It was originally done in Apple HyperCard which is no longer supported by modern macOS computers. To preserve this work required much more than storage space.
No need for libraries. Burn what you have done to a DVD and carry that DVD over to someone else’s house, or better yet two. And for the more recent material, use the various services that offer a few gigabytes of data storage for free. Dropbox is a good example that. It even lets you restore recently deleted files. Over the years, I’ve accumulated almost 5 Gig of free storage on Dropbox.
Quote: “We can’t trust for-profit corporations to undertake long-term preservation, as my friend Beth Wellington discovered some years back.”
Why blame just “for-profit corporations”? Given how lightly Hillary is being treated for massive security violations and deleting thousands of emails, I’d suggest that the State Department and FBI should rank quite high in the not-to-be-trusted ranks. And that’s their own data not someone else’s. The law requires that they collect and maintain that data.
It’s also extremely likely in this case that Hillary’s private server and deletions were used to cover selling our foreign policy to the highest bidder, i.e. allowing a Russian plutocrat to acquire control of half the world’s uranium. Of course, I guess we shouldn’t worry about that. It’s not like uranium could be used to build a nuclear bomb or something.
And yeah, I know. The Clintons have a license to engage in so much criminal activity, I suspect there’s a J. Edger Hoover-like list of blackmail they compiled between 1993 and 2000. Still it is disgusting to see her get off for what would send a mere State Department clerk or Navy enlisted person to prison for years.
This country has two legal systems: one for the powerful and well-connected and one for the rest of us. That’s one hell of a lot more vile that fretting about a guy so silly he put all his creative eggs in one Google-managed basket.
Personally, I suspect Google has this guy’s data stored someplace. They simply don’t want to establish a pattern of bailing out people who don’t do backups.
Check out the Wayback Machine at: http://web.archive.org/web/*/theweaklings.blogspot.com
Apparently, this site was archived once on July 15, 2016. I found nothing earlier than that for this particular URL. Not sure why. Was there another, different URL for the earlier stuff?
Again, keeping your own, more detailed source files is the key to preservation. No one can look out for your stuff better than you can but authors do need to educate themselves as to how that might best be done. For example, why keep RAW image files?
Here is one strategy I use for simple blogs comprised of coordinated images and text. I compose using the Keynote presentation app (PowerPoint would also do) with presenter notes visible. Keynote enables me to embellish the images with graphics and text, cropping and so on. Then, I export the images to disk and go to the blog site where I upload the embellished images and copy/paste the text. After posting, I have a complete and reusable copy of my post plus the original images. One can imagine many variations on this theme, including the use of ePub authoring tools.
My error, I did not pick up the entire URL due to word break. The correct URL is: denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com and there are many snapshots than one can view, copy, etc. I went back to 2007 and found this one:
As a taxpayer, I am reluctant to provide a free, or even a subsidized backup / archive service to “artists” at my local public library, or even at a ‘national’ library. I would rather have my tax dollars spent to increase the collection of items that I could borrow.
This also puts a huge workload on the already overworked and underpaid library staff. Some staff would have to act as gatekeepers, to decide which “artist’s” work is worth archiving. Other staff would have to create and maintain the hardware and software systems to actually archive the works.
I really think I agree more with Nate Hoffelder. The artist should take responsibility for preserving his/her own work.
@Gary: But I’ve talked about the payment of reasonable fees in marginal cases–and some of the fees could even help pay librarians to prioritize the material. As for the clear-cut cases, librarians and others are already curating. Do you really want to privatize the preservation of art and history? And what about the heirs of creators? Should they alone be responsible for what lives and what dies?
@Frank: I’m all in favor of short-term solutions, but we need long-term ones as well.
Publicly funded libraries and museums buy items to add to their collections, and they also accept donations of items that may be added to the collection or that may be sold. I am fine with that.
Anything more than that, however, has always been “private”. I am not suggesting that we should “privatize” the preservation of art and history. I am objecting to a proposal to make it a publicly controlled and paid function in the future.
If a living artist wants to donate copies of his/her work to a library, and if he/she can find a library that is willing to take them, then fine. Accepting donations, however, is different than offering a free or subsidized archiving and backup service for the convenience of artists.
Yes, the heirs of the creators should be responsible. First, they should carry out the wishes of the creator (which have sometimes been to destroy all unfinished / unpublished works), and once those wishes are met, they have the right and responsibility to do what they wish with what is left. If the heirs think that the creator’s works and diaries and letters and blog posts are worth preserving, then they can donate them to a library or museum at that time, if they can find one that will take the stuff. Again, they can DONATE the stuff, as in give up all ownership and control over future use and / or disposition of the stuff.