Shamelessly spent most of my writing time this morning trying to organize my workspace, which includes e-mail. I’m trying to “streamline operations,” as it were, which means setting up some time to fix old equipment, clean off old computers (to give them away or make them useful in some fashion). and generally get things in order so I can actually make use of the copious notes from years past (although much less copious than Calamity Janes’, who should probably just get a job with the National Archives based on her experience).

And I’m suddenly thinking to myself about loss. We have these conversations that waffle back and forth between the ephemerality vs. materiality of digital objects (clearly, the binary – oddly I suppose, considering the context – doesn’t work). I suppose I feel that with all this computing power, I should be able to snap my fingers, have my e-mail sort itself into reasonable categories based on keywords and then – for god’s sake – be archivable in a textual or even HTML format. I use – *shameface* – Outlook Express (Netscape/Mozilla drives me a bit batty; Opera I love, but had several problems with on my system) – and there’s not really, as far as I can tell, a reasonable archiving solution. I would have to pay some guy for *another* program just to archive my emails in case my computer crashed.

Now, granted, the ones I keep on the server are fine (unless those too get wiped out in the blast, but then, I’m unlikely to care in that event), but I keep several folders’ worth of e-mail locally, because my quota has been persistently threatening to pack up the house and lock up my system unless I clear some space. So most of the e-mails from classes I’ve taught are locally archived, along with some freelance web design correspondence, and so on.

And then I just deleted a bunch of stuff wholesale. In a panic, I wondered – what if I NEED one of these, one day…?

I am reminded, of course, that loss is part of the process. Loss also brings us some of the most amazing stories – those of recovery (I think of Alice Walker’s determined recovery of Zora Neale Hurston as one such example). I’m interested to see how we will view ruin(s) and loss of today in ten or twenty years, especially in literary study – isn’t part of our project to gather ruins as our fragments?


3 Responses to Ruin-ations

  1. Matt K. says:

    All academic writers should have a course in project management: how to organize notes, files, etc. How to set up an academic office. How to keep control over your research. Most valuable of all would be learning how senior (and successful) profs organize their research lives.

  2. Jason says:

    Agreed. Any useful tips, offhand?

  3. George says:

    Yes, like J and c_jane, I’m finding this to be a big challenge, too.

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