[Clayart] pots thousands of years in the future

Girrell, Bruce via Clayart clayart at lists.clayartworld.com
Thu Oct 22 12:21:17 EDT 2015

John Post wrote:
This year I am teaching my elementary students about the history of art - I started with the Lascaux cave paintings, we've looked at Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian Hieroglyphics.  


This may be a bit too cerebral for your young ones, but if you work with older ones, particularly high school or older, it's a good question to ask. Note that, after thousands of years, we can look at the ancient paintings, carvings, writings, etc. and grasp meaning from them despite the wear and damage of millennia. If someone 1, 2, 3,000 years from now found a DVD or a memory stick from our age, what meaning could they gather from it? Could the digital information tolerate degradation over the years even if the medium itself managed to survive? And should the bits be readable, how would the future person know the proper file format or even the character representation? For all practical purposes, a digital record may as well be random ones and zeros if you don't have all of the pieces exactly right.

Analog recordings, despite being relatively easily degraded over time, are surprisingly tolerant of that same degradation. You can still recognize Grandma's face in a picture despite it being folded, ripped, soiled and partly missing. Digital copies, though perfect, can tolerate almost no degradation at all before the entire meaning is lost. A few bits lost here and there in critical places (directories, e.g.) can make it impossible to decrypt the remainder of the bits, even if they remain pristine.

Ask your young ones how we will pass on our culture to those that come after us (hint: digital records ain't it). Creating things, crafts for example, are one way that will last the test of time and can carry meaning across thousands of years.

Bruce Girrell

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