Walking in Salman Rushdie's Digital Footsteps

The Salman Rushdie archive on display at Emory, with its handwritten journals and 18GB scattered across four Apple computers, is unlike any other—you can log in to a computer, search his folders, scan his Stickies, run his apps.

Emory is emulating his desktop computer, creating a simulation of his original work environment. This is the power of what librarians and archivists call "born-digital" material: It can go beyond preservation—bits are bits are bits, after all—and through emulation, you can actually inhabit his digital world, use the tools he used. You can't write in the leather-back books that Dickens did, but you can scribble in simulations of Rushdie's Mac Stickies. It's preserving more than material, it's preserving, in part, circumstance.

The NYT says, creepily, "It may even be possible in the future to examine literary influences by matching which Web sites a writer visited on a particular day with the manuscript he or she was working on at the time." I can only wonder and fear what'll come out of chatroulette. And we can only fear the day 4chan is revealed as the literary genesis for a generation, recreated perfectly in university libraries. [NYT]

Memory [Forever] is our week-long consideration of what it really means when our memories, encoded in bits, flow in a million directions, and might truly live forever