Sunday, July 13, 2008
"The writing was washed from parchment or vellum using milk and oat bran. With the passing of time, the faint remains of the former writing would reappear enough so that scholars can discern the text (called the scriptio inferior, the "underwriting") and decipher it." -Wikipedia
A palimpsest is a manuscript page that has been written on, scraped off, and used again. Where faint markings were once laboriously deciphered by scholars, modern science has devised techniques that make previously “lost” text more easily accessible to the trained reader.
In this digital age, it is impossible to permanently erase words and images once they are made public. Blog postings and websites can be removed by their authors, but traces remain that can be retrieved by skillful searchers.
We warn our students that their online identity is a composite of everything they write or upload online. But do we really understand this ourselves? Most of us know about Googling names to gather information on individuals. How many people, though, are aware of Wayback Machine, which can find old websites, or earlier versions of existing websites?
Times change and tools evolve to meet the challenge of those changes. Human nature remains the same. Clay Burell reminded us of the need for diplomacy. If a plea for common decency doesn't impress you, consider this: nothing ever really disappears in cyberspace. It may be hidden or difficult to track, but it is still there somewhere. And there are those who can locate it.
Just so you know.
"A word once uttered can never be recalled." -Horace
Image: Georgian paliphsestV-VI cc.jpg from Wikimedia Commons