Scarcity and Abundance in the (Non-)Digital Age

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The media scrum that greeted Dwight Howard back in October as the Los Angeles Lakers opened training camp tells the story of how far the NBA’s preservation has come.

The Lakers of course take everything to the nth degree, but even a small market like Memphis can rest assured that a half dozen newsmen and cameras will attend any press conference. The mundane words at a run-of-the-mill press conference will be recorded for all of posterity to consider.

Better yet every single NBA game is guaranteed to be stored and recorded. If you subscribe to NBA League Pass or Synergy Sports you can rewatch every single NBA game from this season or even some recorded from past seasons. Get access to the NBA’s institutional vaults and you can run through practically every game from the last several decades.

However, there’s a limit.

The limit is best exemplified with the 1969 NBA Finals. Most noted for being the final of Bill Russell’s 11 titles, the 1969 NBA Finals will have to be recalled and remembered largely by word of mouth and the printed (or digitized) word. Although the series went a full 7 games, only the fourth quarter of the final game survives for all to see. ABC, in its infinite wisdom, used a process called wiping to save tape. This mean that old shows, or basketball games, would be erased on the tape to make room for a newer broadcast program. That’s how the 1969 NBA Finals has been lost outside of lore and legend.

In this digital age we no longer have to worry about too little physical space or ability to save our cherished moments. We are now encountering the opposite problem. We quite possibly have too much information. Roy Rosenzweig accurately surmised this growing problem last decade:

Whereas many scholars have shared Baker’s outrage that books and newspapers have been destroyed, archivists and librarians have responded in outrage to what they see as his failure to understand the pressures that make it impossible to save everything. Whereas historians with their gaze fixed on the past worry about information scarcity (the missing letter or diary)…

Or an NBA Finals game….

…archivists and librarians recognize that we now live in a world of overwhelming information abundance. 63 If historians are going to join in preservation discussions, they will have to make themselves better informed about the simultaneous abundance of historical sources and scarcity of financial resources that lead archivists and librarians to respond with exasperation to scholars’ blithe insistence that everything must be saved.

So, the theoretical ability to preserve information has reached unfathomable potential. Yet, the actual ability can be stymied by financial considerations.

And even if saved, this digitally archived information can be hard to access. Remember, you need a subscription (and expensive one) to access NBA League Pass or Synergy to watch all of these wonderful NBA games.  And access to these games won’t get any easier now that copyright law has gotten positively out of control.

For example a piece of copyright work produced by myself ( a song for instance) is my copyrighted property from the time of its publishing until 70 years after my death. So it could hopefully be well after 2100 before anyone can freely use my cool groovy tunes without worry of lawsuit.

Or you can find work arounds like YouTube. Here’s an apt Police song for the age we find ourselves in…

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