No, this isn’t a post about another zombie apocalypse. I have blogged on and off for 10 years. I was on LiveJournal to stay connected to high school friends when I entered college. I had a photo-blog at the end of my undergraduate schooling that I kept until I finished my master’s degree. I had a pseudonymous blog as a master’s student. I started another pseudonymous blog when I entered graduate school. These were all more than half a decade ago. They are all long since extinguished. They may still exist in the interstices of the web’s forgotten corners. I bet if I tried hard enough I could find them on Google in their immense cache of web stuffs. I don’t know that it is worth it to me to do so. There’s not enough on them that I would want to do anything with. They are zombies that I’d happily send to a more permanent hereafter.
However, there is a blog that I worked on with several fellow graduate students (pre-comprehensive exams). When I passed my exams and began to do my dissertation research I felt compelled to put my own name on my digital work and started again. (Those friends were also never quite so into trying to cultivate a digital space for their religious musings as I was.) I haven’t regretted that decision–although I have at times still struggled to balance the allure of web publishing against rapid degree progress. (Haven’t we all had moments in projects where we’d rather do some other work instead?) But the thing is… I had over a 100 items on my previous site–nearly all of which were academically oriented and many of which deserve another day in the sun. What should I do with them? I certainly won’t (and can’t) simply re-post them. They have broken links, embedded pictures that need to be reuploaded, and contain much that I’d like to change if i had the opportunity. So what to do with these semi-living creatures?
This is one of the problems with the web, right? Nothing dies. It just creeps along, malnourished and thirsting for brains (literally). And when we consider that I am (and most other academic bloggers are) trying to extend our professional selves into the digital public, what are the consequences of these roaming zombie ideas? Are we emotionally invested in them? Do the hold the potential to harm us further down the road? I’ve always been moderately aware that the web is forever. I try pretty hard to remember that when I’m online. Still. You weren’t always the person you are now. Doesn’t that former self merit some consideration? When are we free to decide its time is over? Are we even free to make that decision?
Does this mean that they are like Ed from Shaun of the Dead? Are these old ideas doomed to an unfortunate life after death? I wouldn’t blame them for hanging around. It’s not their fault. I put them out there–which is why blogging is always so risky, right? Digital humanists must, to some degree tip-toe along always aware that they are not totally in control of their products. To a degree it’s the same risk that any academic project accepts. But pushing “publish” is so much faster and seemingly less risky than “real” publishing. No wonder we still haven’t resolved the issue. We’re still figuring out what the consequences might be.