The Archive You Never Asked For


To my simultaneous pleasure and horror, I learned the Wayback Machine has archived some of my old sites. Most of the GeoCities pages are apparently gone for good (and the world is better for it), but I am a little sorry to lose my Maniac Mansion Shrine, especially now that the remaster of Day of the Tentacle has been released.

The good news is most of the video game pages are interesting and funny. The bad news is most of the essays are downright abominable. I was as obnoxious as I remember being. So, there’s a silver lining–my memory and ability to self-assess is spot on!

Originally I thought I might set up a legacy page to document some of my old projects. While it’s interesting to read through the archived pages and observe how some things haven’t changed (see: general tone, irascibility, good looks), these particular sites are 10 to 15 years old and much of the pulp media discussed is long-forgotten. Is it really worth preserving or is it simply an excuse to wallow in the misguided digital cruft of younger days?

This dovetails with recent thoughts on Internet archival efforts. I’m torn between nostalgia and my right to be forgotten.

On the one hand, surely many are pleased to rediscover bits of their digital past. This doesn’t change the fact that preservationists are publishing other people’s data without consent. The Purple Abyss’ continued existence is an act of love, but it’s still someone else’s stuff. Further, Barney horror fic is exactly the sort of thing people generally want to forget. That’s no dig. People get older and move on, and perhaps they don’t want evidence of their moderate Barney obsession enshrined.

In fandom it’s common practice for readers to save local copies of fanfics they like. Writers routinely delete fic when they leave fandom. Readers share these files amongst themselves, but it is understood the stories cannot be posted online again without the author’s explicit permission. It is one of the few things fandom at large appears to agree on.

So. Where does personal ownership stop and communal stewardship reasonably begin, anyway? For me, the line shifts depending on the medium. I don’t question the preservation of StrangeThink’s games, even though the developer is known for self-curating and archiving their work ostensibly flies in the face of that. The form of the archive itself also factors in. I feel better about BBS files archived on BBS rather than the web, for example.

Ultimately, these archives are a public service, they’re maintaining a historical record at personal expense. But I think there’s always going to be a fuzzy area between preservation, ownership, and privacy for me.