Let me digress a bit. Whether or not you agree that “the medium is the message” or that Marshall McLuhan (who would have celebrated his centenary birthday this year) was “the oracle of the modern age,” and whether or not he could have possibly envisioned social media Facebook-style or cloud computing or where such modern constructs would have taken us, we are indeed fully immersed in a digital media age that I think we can agree will undoubtedly have consequences yet to be fully experienced or even imagined.
Take the cassette deck. They have been phased out of cars and the CD player in your car is certain to become extinct in fairly short order to be replaced by the more modern MP3 player, which means that if you don’t want to listen to the radio or pay for customized satellite radio, you’ll have to lay out the cash one way or another to equip yourself with the latest technology in order to listen to music in your car. And what about the tapes you use to back up your files — assuming you back up your files, of course. As shredders and office fires have proven, paper files have their limitations, but have you considered that the media upon which you are storing your client date might be fallible, too?
Data storage and recovery is a very big deal, and if you consider that storage media degrade over time and will inevitably become extinct as “better” products are developed, you could be in serious trouble if the single file you need for litigation purposes 10 years down the road is stored on a digital audio tape (DAT) with thousands of other files. Does this mean you (or your trusty IT support person) need to run out and acquire the means to recover your files, just in case?
The answer is no — although, if you do have data stored on stringy floppy discs (circa 1970), good luck locating anything to help you out today, let alone in 10 years. For larger organizations, maintaining the currency of data storage media may not be such a big issue, but for the average business, it isn’t only expensive to keep up to date, it isn’t likely to be top of mind until there is a crisis. Whether you are maintaining evidentiary support related to an invention or patent files, it is incumbent upon businesses, regardless of their field or size, to maintain sufficient records and retain data in a secure, recoverable way.
I work almost entirely without paper now, which, I confess, is something I thought I would never do. Great for the environment perhaps, but as I work away on my laptop archiving e-mails en masse because my mailbox has exceeded its limit on a weekly basis and corresponding in real-time via “Office Communicator” instant messaging about contracts that I’m on the phone negotiating and editing concurrently, it all seems a bit much at times.
Something is absolutely lost when meetings are entirely virtual and you’re working from a contract on your laptop as opposed to in print. McLuhan was spot on when he opined about our electronic culture which has indeed created an immediacy that has irrevocably changed our sense of time to the point where the distance between events is gone and past, present, and future are blended together.
Maybe media (whatever its form) isn’t dead, but I think I can safely say we are killing it.