Monday, November 09, 2015

In Memorium: F295 (2004-2015)

Post-Script: I realize that to some, who have not deeply engaged in Internet-based discussion forums, this all seems a bit overdrawn and dramatic. So what, another website goes down the drain? As I insinuated in the piece, this is about the death of a community of adepts to an arcane photographic craft, that had been built upon the fragile infrastructure of someone else's doing.

In the pre-Internet days, such a creative community would simply never have existed in the first place, hence its rarity and value. This point is difficult for younger people to understand, who've grown up in an Internet-connected world and think that subcultures within subcultures have always existed. Not so; or maybe only in those culturally-rich hotbeds like New York City, London or Paris. But not in the hinterlands, where anonymous individuals such as myself can connect with others like-minded and enjoy community as rich and genuine in every way as if we were meeting regularly face-to-face.

Could we - the regular members of F295 - have done more to save it? Perhaps. But in the end, it wasn't "ours" to save. Which gets to the point about the fragile nature of our Internet-based culture; it is likely possible that, in the future, less will be known of our times than that of a hundred years previous, because archiving digital media into the indeterminate future requires purposeful, ongoing activity and the continual expenditure of energy and financial resources. Books can molder while consuming little else but space alone, whereas magnetic domains or little bits of stored charges, floating on some fragile medium, require the active will of some long-term administration in order to survive. Servers don't maintain themselves, like books or photos. Someone - some organization, most likely, motivated solely by profit - we entrust with our digital legacies, to our detriment.

Typecast via Olivetti Lettera 22.


Blogger Steve K said...

Hopefully the typosphere will be around for a good while yet. :)

12:28 AM  
Blogger Bill M said...

It is unsurprisingly easy to loose much of the digital world. Many people do not realize that. Digital is very temporary as print may last centuries (as long as the book is in a library someplace and cataloged). I have visited F295 from time to time, but I never got involved. My daughter who does much more pinhole photography than I do was more active. I often wonder about my own sites as to keep them or transfer everything to a free blog. Then even free blogs can be shut down. Look what happened to GeoCities. We lost a great typewriter resource (Will Davis had tons of information on it) when they shut down. (not to mention the original TWDB.) Good we have the WaybackMachine.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Most esoteric online communities have lifecycles, and as you've noted, these generally depend on one person's willingness to sustain the infrastructure, or in many cases, another person's willingness and ability to salvage the work. In the best case scenario, a group forms for the purpose of doing the thing. (there are in fact, at least 2 people with admin rights to the Typosphere blogroll.)

For a loosely-affiliated community of interest such as the Typosphere or pinhole camera blogs, having a centralized blogroll that is maintained by a few members of the community is valuable, but someone has to want to do it. It takes a will. If you want it, be it.

Regarding preservation of dying digital archives of resource, I have some little experience with the process, and have pondered the question in the context of what's left of the Yahoo forums. The TWDB was fairly easy to salvage and rebuild, as it was simple HTML with a fairly limited number of pages and a simple stricture. The Yahoo Portable Typewriter forums? probably impossible due to the fact that Yahoo purposefully designs their content so it cannot be exported in an archivable fashion.

One solution - websites that are designed to be printable (TWDB is), and perhaps even exportable to PDF or archived in flat-file format to DVD-ROM and distributed to members each year. The problem that arises there is the static renditioning of versions of a living, changing resource.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Tom Hitt said...

I stumbled onto an article recently which outlined the excellent and useful Web project the primary purpose of the project is to load and preserve all websites by systematically grabbing and archiving sites and links. This project is meant to keep online footnotes and sited sources alive. When your photography site goes dark, will probably be an invaluable help. ~TH~

4:44 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Joe, thank you for this blog post. I joined f295 in 2010 but did not post nor visit much until the past 6-8 months. I had no idea why I was alone the last living cell. I had no idea that the forum was dying a slow death until I just posted a question about f295 on the Large format forum, which is where I have been a very active member for almost as long as at f295. I guess it is kind of a waste of time for me to continue posting...

5:14 AM  

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