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Ep. 12 Season 2

The World’s Strangest Librarian, Part 1.

Published: 13 Jul 2023
Listen on: Apple Spotify RSS
Stylized image of episode 12: The world's strangest librarian, part 1

As season 2 of Traceroute comes to a close, we take an in-depth look at one of the most important issues in tech today: the intersection between information, access, and ownership. In part one, we’re introduced to Alexis Rossi, the Director of Collections at the Internet Archive, a different kind of librarian (at a different kind of library) that’s attempting to back up the entire internet, as well as the breadth of human knowledge.

But undertaking this mammoth tasks forces Alexis—and indeed all of us—to ask some critical questions: who or what decides what gets preserved…and why. To help answer these questions, we also talk with Dr. Carl Haber, a particle physicist who created IRENE, a digital imaging system that preserves sound recordings without touching them.

We also talk with Bryce Roe and Julia Hawkins of the Northeastern Document Conservation Center, whose hands-on work with IRENE is saving artifacts deeply tied to our culture. But even as we made huge technical strides in preserving our history, more questions arise: as our analog history turns to dust, is the digital representation we replace it with actually history? Is history lost when all the artifacts are replicas, or do we qualify it somehow as an approximation of history?

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