A Cautionary Tail…

“Things happen in 3s”, they say. “True that” I thought after discovering my dSLR had a messed-up sensor, my computer hard disk started playing up, and my car broke down, all in a relatively short period of time. “When will this end?” I asked myself last night as I had a warning that my Backup hard drive had an error that couldn’t be fixed (or some charming prose delivered with a gert big red warning sign). Yes, so my workflow isn’t quite as tight as it should be and since getting the new computer hard disk last week, I hadn’t got round to sorting it all out yet.

Until now that is, and as both hard disks chug away backing-up the Backup, I’m rather reluctant to ask my poor pathetic computer to do anything too strenuous, in case it dies of exhaustion. So far, it seems happy enough running Safari which is allowing me to send out this metaphorical message in a bottle to warn of submerged digital rocks that could leave precious files stranded.

So far, I haven’t lost too much stuff, in terms of actual digital folders. All my music seems to be corrupted, but I’ve got that on my actual computer, and since I am quite passionate about the music album as an art form, all my CDs are safe and sound in a real, physical sense. Oh, and a small folder marked “BA work”…

Yes, I’m pretty sure everything digitized from my BA has been corrupted. These were on CDs/DVDs which I chucked after I put everything cleanly on my Backup drive, but in a stupid space-saving exercise not dissimilar (but on a far less significant scale) to the BBC burning master tapes of Doctor Who episodes to free up shelves in their archive. Thankfully, the majority of my projects throughout my BA were shot on film, and, unlike some later digital images, they actually existed from the moment the film was exposed and processed, and those negatives are safe and sound. I had a few essays on there too, but again, unlike at a lot of colleges today, these were actually printed out and read on paper rather than assessed on a screen, so I have these too. Thankfully the same is true of my projects. These were made, printed and mounted, or bound in a book, and these can’t be corrupted, not at least by any malfunctioning piece of kit or algorithm.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel pretty foolish for not keeping on top of my file management, and I haven’t yet checked through every single folder to see what else I might have lost. As a professional, I have a duty to properly look after the material that I have created for other people, which I have neglected to do properly. But if I’ve only lost material that does actually exist (albeit not in quite such an infinitive, reproducible, digital format) no damage has really been done. In fact, it feels almost liberating: The work has been made; it’s served its function. If it can’t be re-printed, re-edited, re-contextualized, so what? Isn’t it a little presumptuous to preserve everything we type or photograph, generating our own archive? Who is really going to ever want to see all of it? Are we like pharaohs hoarding all of our virtual belongings in our digital pyramids? Will it follow us to the afterlife, when we too will no longer exist in a physical state? As I said, I need to see what else I’ve lost before going to over the top!

Seriously though, take it from me – get your disks in order. It’ll save a lot of worry! If you do decide to chuck it, you can just hit “delete”. It’s cheaper than a box matches.