Digital Dark Age – A Beginning

After settling on a suitably dramatic blog post title I thought I’d introduce you to some background information on the ‘Digital Dark Age’ – my interactive concept album / major project for the third year of my Music Production degree. In last week’s post I talked briefly about what the DDA is, but this week I want to look at what gave me the inspiration for this project and…

WHAT am I actually going to do?

  • Write and record 5 songs based on the concept of the Digital Dark Age
  • Design and build a first person style level in Unreal Engine to implement the songs as non-linear versions for game-style play and provide an informative narrative.
  • Release the 5 songs as a concept EP via Bandcamp
  • Produce physical format cassette versions of the album for sale
  • Write a blog post every week

This is of course on top of the actual written evaluations, research and other academia that goes along side a degree level piece of work. It’s something I’ve wanted to work on for a while and I was pleased that it fitted into the mould of my major project assessment criteria, essentially enabling me to indulge in lots of fun things and hopefully get a good grade at the end of it all!

So to get the digital ball rolling here’s a quote from one of my favourite books…

‘Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past’ (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949)

I recently read a research paper about the DDA by Terry Kuny written in 1997 and this quote was the starting point of his report. It got me thinking about what the DDA means to me, and how it can affect our lives. How can we learn from the past and prepare for the future if we don’t have access to the information?

Clearly the Digital Dark Age is something people have been discussing for some time, and Kuny believed that they were living in the midst of a DDA back in 1997. With that in mind it’s hard to imagine that things have really improved since then, as we march further into the information age. The idea of ‘data preservation’ is something I’m really enjoying researching and whilst you may not find it as exciting as I do, it’s an issue you should be aware of because it affects all of us, every day.

At this juncture I should point out that the term ‘Digital Dark Age’ to me extends further than the realms of digital technology, and as such it’s worth mentioning that analogue data storage mediums can be just as prone to being unreadable in the future as digital documents, files and formats.

Have you ever wanted to find a bunch of old photos from your previous mobile phone? Where did they go?! I hope you backed them up to a safe place! What about that CD-ROM video of your pets 1st birthday? Does your new Macbook have a CD-ROM drive?

And so on…

Whilst I like to think of myself as being fairly ‘tech savy’ I know that I need to improve the way I store my precious data, but what can I REALLY do? It’s all just zero’s and one’s right? This is a question that many organisations are trying to answer, in a big way. Preservation is nothing new, we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years but digital archiving and preservation is still a relatively new area of expertise and it forms the backbone for a lot of the conceptual ideas for this project. The tracklist for the album is below, with a brief description of the narrative that will be part of the interactive, playable version.

  1. Digital Dark Age – An introduction to the concept, facts, terminology and impact.
  2. Preservation – Exploring what digital preservation means and how it can be used
  3. Fabrication – A look into the future as historians struggle to find information on the past, and ultimately guess or make things up to fill the void.
  4. Speculation – Wondering what the past must have been like for those living in the information age. Asking questions like “Why do pictures of everyone in 2015 include a canine’s nose and ears?”
  5. Brave New World – What comes next? Are future generations going to be living in an ill-informed, digital void where the past is forever being re-worked, reimagined or completely forgotten?

Of course much of this is hypothetical but I personally feel strongly that everyone should at least be aware of the impact of what the ‘Digital Dark Age’ could be, and the whole idea lends itself nicely to a concept album. SO here we are, that was a lot in one go but it won’t all be waffle in the future I promise, there will be music, and animations and a game (lets hope). As usual – I’d love any thoughts or comments you might have. Now go and back up your smart phone / watch / toaster quick.



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