Internet Archeologists Reconstruct Vanishing Digital Artifacts

Jonathon Markowski
October 13th 2013

Where civilizations of the past left drawings, glyphs and written messages, we have taken to the internet to record the vast majority of modern history and knowledge. But is it permanent? At Old Dominion University in Virginia, researchers Hany Salah Eldeen and Michael Nelson have been studying the rate at which information on the internet disappears, and if it can be restored.

Eldeen and Nelson began their research studying tweets, blog posts and other accounts of the Egyptian uprising in 2011, but they noticed that some of these resources were vanishing over time, and started studying this phenomenon. They found that 11% of information on the internet disappears within the first year, which then rises to 27% after two years.

They then set to work trying to recover some of this lost information. Because many of these tweets, posts, and other resources leave traces behind such as retweets, hashtags and comments, Eldeen and Nelson were able to reconstruct some of what was lost. Their work is the dawn of a new field in internet archaeology. Where in the past, archaeologists were most concerned with finding physical artifacts of lost civilizations, there is a whole realm of intangible recorded history that is disappearing as you read this post.

Story via Technology Review.

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