The DAM that Gaslit Me

Now that I’ve worked in Digital Asset Management (DAM) for a certain large publisher who has no clue how to provide proper tech support for the DAM software it relies upon, I know for a fact that badly maintained digital media is scary and can mess with your head. While paper and physical objects can be easily misplaced or destroyed by mold, fire or chemicals, such things do not occasionally inexplicably disappear as digital files do from neglected data servers that are accessed by old, unmaintained software.

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

I learned this lesson first hand a long time ago. I’d copied all my music files from CDs onto an old hard drive to get the clutter in my apartment down. When I went to access a particular album from the drive about a year later, it wasn’t listed in the contents. I doubted my sanity — had I missed copying it? I soon realized that several albums I clearly remembered copying were not on the drive. This was my first experience with Data Degradation. It’s now the source of much paranoia.

The DAM software with which I worked at this publisher gaslit me on a daily basis, making me question my own judgement and memory. Metadata that I’d entered yesterday, which I checked and rechecked, corrected and perfected, and placed firmly in the place where it was to live, would simply be gone today rendering me powerless.

I love the digital tools in my life — my iphone is with me at all times for entertainment, connections to all the wonderful people in my life, business, education, etc. I also love how my computer has expanded my creative skills exponentially. Digital technology has allowed archives and museums the ability to share their collections with a vast amount of people, expanding their reach internationally.

Storage of the products of the myriad bytes of data those actions create, though, is a different matter altogether.

Until technology greatly improves, and until the rest of the world stops looking at it as the tool that will run our lives seamlessly without maintenance, I’ll be bracing myself for the day when my stored images, documents, and writings no longer exist, when I’ll question my having created it all in the first place. With any luck, its disappearance will remove a great load from my back.