Digital Life Preserver

Exploring the possibilities of microform

Digital media has the advantage that it is easy to copy and quick to locate. Unfortunately the digital storage mediums have a limited life span and are subject to technological obsolescence over time. There was a point around the turn of the 20th century when a photograph was a precious thing. Today many of these photos have survived, but they are quickly deteriorating due to the nature of the process.

As technology progressed, and cameras became more common and more portable, photography became ubiquitous. The 35mm film camera boomed in popularity through the 20th century, but gradually, as digital technology surpassed film in practicality, the everyday use of film cameras declined. Today our photos exist largely as files on the computer, never finding the physicality of photographs before then.

Analogue mediums deteriorate gracefully, while the digital stuff tends to corrupt absolutely. A digital print today has longevity of about 100 years, similar to the daguerreotypes of the 19th century. Paper is a durable medium, and can survive for a few thousand years if kept in the right conditions, but the ink tends to fade, and the digital images will eventually disappear. Film, on the other hand, is readable for hundreds of years before it starts to deteriorate, and it is atomic – so it is readable with only the eyes.

The technology of microform is used largely by institutions to archive vast collections of books, newspapers, and records. Microfiche and Microfilm have been a primary backup for over 60 years, many of that material can still be read with the mechanically simple machines of yesterday.

Digital-Life-Preserver is a concept that explores the possibility of using microform to archive and store personal digital images for the coming generations; providing the most cherished stories with a life beyond life.

Advisor: Vinay Venkatraman