Invisible Adjunct posted a notice saying that the site will be taken down on June 9– two days from now. The announcement has generated a bunch of comments, and at least two people have created mirrors of it.
I’ve thought a little about the effect digital archiving, and the persistence of old data (really old posts and other traces of our online selves) could have on memory and our sense of ourselves. Some (like Many2Many, for example) that IA should stay up because its a great resource is a good one; and to a greater degree than is the case with most blogs, it became a public resource, a place where a lot of people talked about the challenges of academic and postacademic life.
Those facts argue for keeping it alive.
But it’s also one person’s site, and documents a phase of her life that she’s chosen to bring to a close. This, I think, argues for one of two approaches: turning the site into one owned by its readers (I thought that the name should be passed on to someone else, like the Dread Pirate Roberts), or turning it off.
We haven’t had enough experience with blogs and other digital memory palaces to have a feel for when it’s time not just to stop working on them, but to take them back apart. But my instinct is that just because something can be left online, doesn’t mean that it should. I think at some point it would be unseemly for me to continue my blog about my children; I’m not sure when that point will come– maybe when they’re old enough to blog themselves, I don’t know. I’ll keep a copy of it for myself, of course.
I’ve written about postacademic life myself. But unlike my “Journeyman” piece, it was a living document, some produced in real time, not a post-game analysis. Instinct (and Dorothea Salo) tells me that letting IA fade is the right thing to do.
Everyone who read IA thought it was a great performance, and a great service. A lot of wisdom was poured into, and poured out of, that site. I have nothing with people copying the whole thing to their hard drives, and samizdat copies circulating among graduate students and young Ph.D.s for years to come. That, I think, would be a fitting way for that wisdom to be preserved: not in a form that tugs at the person who wrote it, and tries to pull them back to this earlier life, but as knowledge that precisely because it is not part of a site that is so closely associated with a single person, can become something owned collectively.
[To the tune of Peter Gabriel, “A Different Drum,” from the album Passion: Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ.]