The first time I heard about “digital legacy” was about a year ago. Ziad was wondering what he would leave to his children, as he noticed that almost everything he owns and defines him as a person, is digital: his passions, his conversations, his favorite books & movies…
Like him, I am not very materialistic, nor the kind of person to own lot of things — as if my Parisian flat would allow me! My “valuable belongings” are a digital camera, my 72' Gibson guitar, a decent rock record collection and a great stereo system. The other stuff I care about is emotion related and doesn’t have any kind of value — other than the one I put in it: like photography, old letters and postcards, travel souvenirs etc…
These, I keep in my old souvenir box. Every time I check on it, I start wandering: it’s a great feeling to travel back through time once in while! It’s not nostalgia, it’s remembering of good things past & people I love ; people that aren’t here anymore ; or when I was living in totally different places… that’s precisely the stuff I care about and that I’d leave to my children.
The talk with Ziad echoed as I noticed that I hadn’t added a single thing to my souvenir box for over ten years! In the past decade I met my partner in life, we’ve backpacked around the world, we’ve had amazing time with our friends & family, and we since had a baby together…
So how is it even possible, that ten of the happiest years of my life are NOT in my souvenir box?
Ziad is right: the Internet, the cloud, laptops and smartphones, social networks, digital photography, instant messaging… it’s all there now!
My love letters are in emails and instant messages. So does the recent news from my friends and family. The story of our travels are in a blog. The pictures that I take and the one from my friends are scattered online. Most of the music & playlists that I listen are online.
Everything we do, everything we love and share, every place we go to is now somehow linked to the Internet. We all have different habits, we use different apps and services. But the result is this: a very large part of our personal story and memories are digital. And it’s not going backwards.
When I started using the Internet, it was a communication tool, limited in content and really slow retrospectively — anyone who had a 56K US Robotics modem knows what I’m talking about.
Most of us would use it for one really basic thing: search. But then, we’ve put so much personal content in it. And with high speed bandwidth and unlimited storage, there’s no limit to how much we can put on the Internet — the exact opposite of my flat.
Without noticing, we create amazing amounts of content in the instant and just leave it there. Of course, not everything we do online matters. But I know for sure that I have digital souvenirs that are intimate, personal and emotional.
Digital souvenirs are not less important than real life souvenirs, because they are to become the only souvenirs of our generation. Period.
Is our digital memory safe? Like most people, I tend to believe my digital stuff will always be there, that I’ll always find it back. But is it? We’ve talked this through, and there are three main reasons why I should doubt it.
It’s impossible to keep track of everything. Whether it’s in emails (I never delete emails except scams), on social networks or in the cloud. My photo library is also way too big. Finding stuff we care about can be very difficult because it gets buried under a gigantic pile of (meaningless) data.
Because technology evolves, computer crash or… more likely, because of me!
The first 2 email accounts I ever had are closed now. No going back. I didn’t know how to backup and anyway, I didn’t have such concern back then. Still these accounts represented 8 years of my life, when I was a student.
When my house was robbed in 2007, I lost the first 5 years of my digital pictures. I later lost many pictures that were only stored on my cellphone, when there was no cloud backup. I hate myself for being so careless.
I’ll keep on switching from apps to apps. Because… life! Technology is constantly evolving: I’ve already stopped writing on my blog and using ICQ, MSN messenger & many others… so I’ll probably do that again. And eventually lose more personal data in the way.
If we wait another ten or twenty years, we’ll find ourselves stucked into an information black hole, without any souvenirs left. We can’t continue to neglect our digital life like that.
Our personal identity and legacy depends on our capacity to preserve our memories
This is why we are building the first Digital Souvenir Box.
In swahili language, from the Rift Valley (#CradleOfHumanity), “Kumbu-kumbu” or “Kumbu” means “Souvenir”, “Memory”. We chose the name Kumbu, as a mean to remember who we are and where come from.
As we speak, Kumbu is a team of 4 people living across France. There’s Diane, Bart, Ziad and myself. Our ambition for the Digital Souvenir Box is huge; and the the work to be done even more! We want to create an amazing service that we’ll love to use, and that will help us preserve our most precious souvenirs from the web, social networks & apps.
Tell us and help shape Kumbu!