I have a playlist in iTunes to which I add my current favorite songs. Whenever I hear a new one that I really like, I'll add it to the top of the list. (Yes, I realize I could give it a high rating and use a smart playlist to deliver it, but the manual playlist gives me more control over the flow from one song to another.) I don't do a lot of housekeeping on this list. As I was looking at the song titles today I realized those songs all have associations from different times in my life, and that they're stacking up in the playlist like sediment. The song order would seem random to anyone else, but to me it describes a clear timeline:
- songs from when I converted my cassette tapes to digital files and re-discovered some old gems
- songs from when I was at my previous job, when a co-worker passed me a lot of her favorite music
- songs from the soundtrack of that movie I loved a year ago
- songs from when I started commuting by car instead of by train, and listening to the radio more.
It's not interesting to anyone else but me, but it got me thinking about the sediment that we are all leaving individually and collectively. The playlist (or any kind of personal list – like the ones contributed by readers on Amazon) is a part of our web 2.0 experience (as discussed by David Weinberger in Everything is Miscellaneous, and I'm sure by others). The "stream" acts in a similar way (photostream on Flickr, tweetstream on Twitter) as do our links and favorites – blips of ourselves piling up in chronological order - and in many cases not able to be re-ordered.
Will they still be there for some future webologist to analyze, inspecting the layers of news and trends the way a geologist studies the strata in sedimentary rock? Or will they be wiped out by disaster or by retention policies of the companies who are hosting them?
If we had this kind of detailed, though unstructured, information about the people who lived in our society two hundred years ago, would we want it? What is web 2.0 going to mean for genealogical research? What will the aliens think?
Happy weekend, everyone.