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ARSCLIST  July 2003

ARSCLIST July 2003

Subject:

Re: Long-term/preservation audio

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 Jul 2003 16:37:52 -0400

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----- Original Message -----
From: "George Brock-Nannestad" <[log in to unmask]>
> All the discussion in the archive philosophy group that has sprung up
really
> deals with information and the discarding of information. And that is a
much
> more fundamental question than what our list usually handles.
Actually, though, we are (or should be) dealing with only a small portion of
the
question (though the subject itself is so huge that even tiny fractions of
it
are still huge!) and that is definend in our title: Association of RECORDED
SOUND
Collections. Thus, what we are trying to archive is, first, any recordings
of
sound which could be reproduced; and, second, any data on sound recordings
of
whatever nature, ranging from individual data on individual recordings
through
company ledgers or similar collections of data to data on the invention and
evolution of the process of recording sound.
> Every object that we handle possesses information, some of it coming from
our
> handling leaving traces on it. Some of the information is deliberately
> discarded, and some of it is retrieved because we go looking for it. One
> instance of discarding is just throwing it out in our dustbin. However, in
a
> criminal inquiry, forensic experts will sift through our refuse in order
to
> obtain information to fit into a pattern. This does obviously not mean
that
> all our refuse should be deposited somewhere so that it may answer
questions
> of an arbitrary nature later.
In fact, the universe could be recreated IF we had the necessary information
and
IF we had the tools to use it! Simply define the position of each particle,
and
move equivalent particles to similarly arranged locations. Of course, the
numbers
involved are beyond our comprehension, but...
> As our analytical tools become better, there is more and more that we can
fit
> into patterns and use to answer questions, but we cannot make the pace of
> development of analytical tools keep up with the information we discard.
> Some objects should really be retained for analysis. For instance, if all
> garages in all of Scandinavia had retained, in the period subsequent to
the
> disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the intake filters that they
> exchanged in the total fleet of cars running in Scandinavia, they could
have
> sent them to a central authority with precise information about the cars
they
> were removed from and their whereabouts. This authority could then have
> analysed the radioactivity and perhaps the individual particles from these
> filters, which would have enabled the drawing of maps of the distribution
of
> radioactive particles in the air. This way we would have had a much better
> grasp of the pollution, and perhaps we could have predicted better when it
> was again safe to eat Norwegian caribou. Instead the authorities raised
the
> limit of danger, so that the meat miraculously became quite healthy again.
> Now, this is just one example of information that we do not bother to
retain
> and analyse, and the phenomenon is so common that it approaches "human
> nature". Information will be lost and only fragments left for the future
to
> learn from.
The problem is that we have knowing in advance what information would be of
the
most value...even in our limited field. For example, if someone had been
able to
record the very earliest speeches of Adolf Hitler, and if those recordings
had
been in the hands of a trained psychiatrist, the latter might have said
"This
individual must be kept out of public office, or perhaps out of public
life!"
Chances are the replies would have suggested that the psychiatrist, not
Hitler,
was the dubious one! Today, if we hear a current politician sounding like
Hitler,
we can take steps, based on what happened 60-70 years ago. Now, we have no
way
of knowing which current recordings will be listened to decades hence and
cause
comments like "If I had heard this, and realized what it implied, I would
have
known that XXX was a danger to humanity..." or, on the other hand "...XXX
was
a genius capable of saving the universe..."
> Obviously this shall not preclude anybody from collecting time-capsules;
it
> is only a question of who pays in the end.
A "time capsule," though, is primarily an exercise in nostalgia...if it does
contain valuable information, it is more by accident than anything else (or
because some individual is seeking certain specific information that was not
saved otherwise...
Steven C. Barr

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