Craig Mod, whose work is consistently challenging and informative, posted recently about what happens to works that don’t in some form exist online. In “A pointable we“, Mod talks about a “long, intimate” interview with Japanese author Murakami Haruki that exists only in print.
Mod’s apt summary phrase, highlighted by Kat Meyer on Twitter, is “To not exist digitally means to be walled off.” In a comment, I wonder if the stronger construction might be, “To be offline means in part to not exist.” That gets us closer to the choices made in going or staying offline.
I went on to say that the idea here reminds me of what the Bladerunner replicant Roy Batty says as dies:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
Librarians, appropriately, worry about “who will preserve the web?” Digital persistence is a significant issue, but the tradeoff here is one outlined by another commentor.
Shared, something continues to exist. It is not in its original form, perhaps, but it exists at least as a contribution to who we are. Offline, that’s much harder.