This atricle about the fragility of electronic and technology-dependent information is a couple of years old, but it’s a good overview of one of my primary areas of interest within my new field. It’s actually a big topic among librarians and archivists, but I don’t think it can be emphasized too much.
Obviously, the big stuff is going to be preserved. Things like the video of the first moonwalk or of the World Trade Center bombing are in no real danger. Original masters of Disney movies will continue to be lovingly stored on their little satin pillows under perfect archival conditions for the foreseeable future. But an amazing volume of less visible material (like the census data mentioned in the link, or the first generation of websites, for example) is at considerable risk. This is the kind of stuff I’m interested in, things like snapshots of the web at a given point in time, or recordings of full days (or even just hours) of commercial broadcasting, with commercials and voiceovers included. As usual, my excitement is over that ephemeral, everyday kind of material, which is also why I’m so obsessed with the history of supermarkets and other commercial/retail architecture.
I’ll spare you the details of my home media preservation projects other than to say that backing up everything I have on magnetic media (e.g. cassette tapes) is priority number one. It’s kind of sad, though, that the very technology that made it possible for my generation to preseve so much information also makes all that extra information so much more unstable.