Saving and Losing Work in the Digital Age

Posted by David Beyea, Fiction Reader for 8.2

Your hard drive is fried, your work is gone.

You’re unsure what happened. You had Netflix open while intermittently slapping away at your keyboard, slowly plugging away at your most recent assignment; suddenly, you’re met with that terrifying blue screen of death with a HTTP status code that is reminiscent of the black speech uttered by Sauron’s minions:

ERROR CODE 0xce00%00225

You panic. When was the last time you backed up your hard drive? When was the last time you even considered that that was an issue? Your life is busy enough as is; it isn’t fair. What gives your computer the right to just fail like this on you?

You search frantically online, you bring it to the shop, but unfortunately, the prognosis is grim. The scatterbrained documents, the last-minute papers, the pictures and memories – all of them are gone. Your work is all gone in just a moment.

So, where do you go from here? How can you prevent something like this from happening again?

Unfortunately, I cannot offer any fantastic bits of technological wizardry that can salvage a lost hard drive. To those who have suffered from such awful moments, know that you are not alone. Even the most responsible and tech-savvy can be caught in a moment like this without having a backup of their files. The history of literature is filled with dozens of famed creators and their lost works, possible masterpieces lost to time and the gormless swell of digital code. A hard drive being wiped feels like the equivalent to the burning of the Library of Alexandria. You will feel like you never want to put words on the page again. After all, what’s the point? You’ve already lost everything.

In an increasingly digital world, it is of the upmost importance that writers learn to cope with these losses. They will happen; there is little doubt in that. Every creator feels the pang of loss at some point in their lives. Don’t let it consume you. Accept your losses; continue to create. Imbue your future works with the sparks of what initially inspired you.

With that being said, you don’t just have to accept the fact that you will lose things. You can fight against it from happening.

Consider moving your work over to a cloud-based format, such as Dropbox, or at least having a backup of your files on one. The cloud is an online network that puts your files in different storage areas beyond those just in front of you. Instead of just having your data stored in just your hard drive, it would be putting another instance of the data somewhere else. Dropbox basic is a free platform that allows you to upload and access up to 2 Gigabytes of files, and you can recover files you delete up to thirty days afterwards. While flash-drives are becoming somewhat antiquated, it might be a good idea to start backing up some of those old papers you wrote on them; you’ll never know when you’ll need them again.

Try printing out some of the papers you’re proudest of. Store them away, show them to friends and families, or just keep them for your own benefit. Keep a repository (NOT on your computer) of your usernames and passwords. Don’t keep using the same passwords over and over again. I know it’s a pain to remember, but it greatly diminishes your chance of getting hacked and losing your work.

Perhaps the most important advice of all is to acknowledge that the literary world is changing. It may be easier to treat computers like they are just tools with which to watch or play or write, but that would greatly undersell entirely how complicated they are. Dr. Paul Schacht teaches a class at Geneseo centered entirely around how humanities are to transition to a digital format. This Digital Humanities class encourages its students to actively interact with their computers and understand how and why different processes happen. If you can understand your computer, then perhaps you solve or even prevent any possible issues in the future. Think of yourself not as a technician, but instead as a linguist of a new language – a digital language.

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