Similar to dark matter in physics, dark data often comprises most organisations’ universe of information assets. So, organisations often retain dark data for compliance purposes only. Storing and securing data typically incurs more expense (and sometimes greater risk) than value.
What really struck a chord with me, however, was the mention of multiple near-identical images on Google Photos, iCloud, Amazon Photos etc. In my case, my “multiple near-identical images” sit on my phone SD card, on Amazon Photos and on a variety of external back-up and SD drives.
The problem is that the dark data is anchored to the real world by the energy it requires, in other words the data takes up space on servers in warehouses, all requiring a great deal of electricity.
Continuing with the Conversation article, in 2020 digitisation was purported to generate 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it is increasing at an alarming rate.
So how can I make a start on reducing my digital carbon footprint?
A quick scroll through my photo gallery on my phone (including WhatsApp photos and videos) for just the past couple of weeks is a bit of an eye-opener.
Soup recipes; images of soup/s from said soup recipes; screenshot of Covid and Flu jab appointment; image of a tradesman’s van across the street for future reference in case of a plumbing/heating emergency; pictures of the garden (in the rain, in the sun, by day and by night); images and videos of Fraser’s birthday (cake, presents, assembly of train set, blowing out of candles, unwrapping of presents, disassembly of train set, eating of cake, you get the drift); pictures of daughter and son-in-law on weekend trip to Arran including a ferry and lots of rain followed by a rainbow; videos of Fraser on a swing, pictures of friend’s dog, screenshot of Tesco order…you get the picture...or a lot of pictures.
And, to neatly fit the dark data eligibility criteria, there were several versions of most of the above, taken seconds apart.
Fraser engrossed in a book
How did we manage before digitisation?
My first camera was a Kodak Brownie bought at the local chemist when I was around 10, so in the the mid-sixties. I don’t remember the model, but from a little research it was probably the 127 which sold millions between 1952 and 1967.
My dad also had a cine camera which was his pride and joy, and holidays and family occasions were always captured on cine. I loved loading the reels and watching footage of warm summer holidays - even more enjoyable on a wet winter evening. We also dabbled a little bit in editing, splicing and joining smaller reels to create longer reels and feeling like we were really making our own little family movies.
"Is it that my memories and my imaginings are lying deeply in the same place – one on top of the other – like layers of shells and sand in a piece of limestone – so that they have both become the same element?"
Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture
My next memory is of Polaroid instant cameras – popular in the 70s and 80s. I have baby photos of both of my daughters taken on an instant camera and stuck down in their “baby’s first year” annuals.
The next iteration were the ubiquitous film rolls which could be handed into the local printing shop, or posted in brightly-coloured and distinctive envelopes. Then there was the waiting followed by the excitement, or disappointment when your prized photos didn't quite live up to expectation, and several were plastered were stickers giving you advice on where you had gone wrong and why three-quarters of the image was blurred – hint do those look like fingerprints?
From there we moved to digital – and a veritable cornucopia of plugs, chargers, adaptors and cables allowing you to upload, download, copy, delete, save, make a back-up (just in case) to your computer, external hard drive, and eventually your phone!
Taking all of the above into consideration, I really do need to take active steps to reduce my digital footprint. The problem is…every time I dig out a folder from one of my many belt-and-braces storage devices I get immersed in the story of the photo. Who, what, where, when, why?
"We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust's jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorised with every act of recollection."
So, for now I will start with baby steps and try to be disciplined with future photos – and instantly delete the unnecessary versions of the same image taken milli-seconds apart.
Take care, lead well