Back in the day, we put our photos in albums. Then we burned them on to CDs. Now we upload them to Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram.
In a few decades, will we be able to pass on our digital images to our grandchildren? It’s a question that Jessica Bushey is asking.
The PhD student in the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies is inviting people to take an online survey about their use of social media sites to store their photos.
“What are the expectations of users of social media sites as default repositories?” Bushey asked over the phone. “If there are expectations that they’re supposed to be able to keep their images and their text messages, et cetera, for years and years and years in these commercial websites that are run by companies for profit, what does that mean 25 or 50 years from now?”
Bushey told the Georgia Straight that the survey is related to her PhD thesis project on the “trustworthiness” of digital images. According to her, storing photos in the cloud raises a lot of issues.
For instance, social media sites assert some rights over users’ uploaded photos. They also tend to strip out photographers’ metadata.
Bushey wonders if, just as people have lost data to obsolete file formats, we’re going to lose our photos to social media sites in the future. This has greater ramifications than whether or not people can access their personal snapshots, the UBC student noted.
“We, as a society, rely on history to understand where to go into the future, right?” Bushey said. “Archives are one of those key areas. We use them all the time. They’re more prevalent now in the news than ever before.”