Lost Memories: Short Film Explores Our Fleeting Digital Memory

Filmmaker Francois Ferracci posted a short film on Vimeo a few weeks ago which was soon listed as a Staff Pick. It's a brief, fascinating exploration of our digital dependence, our reliance on storing, uploading and backing up our memories and knowledge into the digital ether. The film asks: is it safe for us to be so reliant on digital data? is it enough for us to have multiple back-ups? Is any of our information at risk? Should we commit any of it to physical format, just in case?

In an interview with One Small Window, Ferracci explains this purpose for making the film:
I wanted the audience to think about digital information flow, and also about how our memories will remain if one day everything disappears. I think it’s a very important question we have to ask to ourselves.
If there was a fire in your house and you had a few minutes to grab some stuff, knowing the rest would burn, what would you grab? Chances are, among your loot, would be either a photo album or hard drive containing photos. It's one of the reasons I have been considering setting hubby and I up for digital off-site backups. Given that everything else we do is in the cloud, it would only make sense for us to want to run off-site backups of our photos, especially the ones of the Dude when he was a baby.

But what if those data centres went down? What if our data went missing? Don't think it could happen? Think they would have to resort to backups? What if the backups went missing? We all have to click OK on terms of service that absolve these providers from random acts of nature or other random events that could wipe clean our digital memories. And then what? What would you do?

Is physical backup really the answer? Should you suddenly start printing copies of everything? Do you need a paper backup of your blog? Should you have stacks of photos in boxes in an off-site storage unit to backup the copies in your computer's hard drive that are backed up in an external hard drive that is backed up in the cloud?

[Aside: Before we even get into the environmental impacts of creating physical copies of absolutely every single memory, we should probably consider a sidebar about creating digital copies of absolutely everything we think and do in the first place. Are we really that scared about using our memories in the long term? And why do we need to document everything we do; are we really that important? Personally, I think not. If anything, we need just enough content to stimulate our memories so that we can pass on our oral history. Anything else is pure vanity (she writes on her blog, unironically.)]

You know, we often gripe about the fact that the paperless office is nowhere to be found. Maybe what makes people keep printing and filing documents is inherent paranoia that digital data is too fleeting. That not being able to see something tangible must mean that it can disappear more easily than a physical copy. After all, hard drives are just electricity, some metal and some magnets, right? Is that any more or any less stable than a copy on a flammable piece of paper?

So much to consider.
It can be overwhelming.
For now, just watch this and try not to hurt yourself thinking about it. ;)