Of course we know that We the Web Kids
experience learning in ways that are vastly different to those of my generation. They have grown up in the web not viewing it as we did as a thing apart. We know that they won't need to remember facts and figures, or times and dates, because all of that technical stuff is just a google away. Arguably, this frees up space in their brains for more interesting conundrums, like how to solve world poverty. And that's not a bad exchange in my book.
But what I have paid less attention to over the years is my own increased reliance on the web as a source of record, assuming I don't need to remember everything I have done in the past because somewhere there will be an artifact or object to point to or retrieve. The question is how much of my memory stops at the point of invisibility on the web?
I was recently asked to give a talk to Deloitte's Senior Women on the topic of Women in Leadership. In preparing I remembered a fantastic woman who had been a strong role model in my very early twenties. She was an entrepreneur and leader at a young age herself and I wanted to use her as an example in my presentation.
She had run a successful business for many years in Ireland so I figured I'd have no problem finding photographs, articles, speeches from which I could put together a profile to share. But several exhaustive searches yielded nothing. Not a Flickr image, Linkedin profile, Twitter account, newspaper interview. It was like she had never existed or worse still had died?
A recent visit home to Ireland and a discussion with my mother revealed the woman is in fact alive and well, retired a number of years ago and is enjoying several rounds of golf every week with a wide circle of friends.
I had a similar deja vu when searching for a project I was involved with in Temple Bar, Dublin in the early 90's. At the time I was co-founder of an arts production company (Artsource Ltd) which curated the Street Art Temple Bar project. For almost three years we commissioned temporary site specific installations all over Temple Bar during the height of its' regeneration. My own paper and photographic records (before digital) are long gone and it seems so long ago now that I don't even include the work on my CV.
When we wound up the company we donated our archive to the National College of Art and Design and while the collection is listed on their website its not searchable online.
But it all got me thinking. If it does not exist on the web did it happen at all? If your legacy of work is not searchable how can it be verified? Those three years of work in Dublin were some of my most enjoyable career years - so do I sub-consciously leave it off my CV because in some way I think "why bother no one will be able to find it"?
If the internet is our memory is it also our legacy?