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[sixth blog, travel course, Concordia University-Texas]

State Department Historian Mark Howe brought up something quite interesting in his session with us on Thursday. He discussed how the federal government’s archiving system will have to figure out how to archive new forms of media—specifically email and social media. I’d never considered this before.

People are known to demonize new technologies. They may be rightfully skeptical of how a new technology will take the place of what they have now—if it will improve current technology or fail, and how. Howe said, for example, that historians demonized the telegram when it replaced hand-written letters; they didn’t know if and how to archive messages sent via telegram. Howe also noted that historians later demonized radio, television, and the internet for the same reasons.

Some people in business—as well as historians and society at large—are demonizing email and social media because we haven’t developed a sound, definite, consistent methodology explaining how to communicate/document/archive information. However, the massive shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is something we can no longer speculate about. It’s definite. The shift has already occurred. It’s therefore imperative for businesses of all types to embrace email and social media—after all, this type of shift in communication has happened time after time in history. From the Pony Express to telegrams, from radio to YouTube, it’s clear we’re capable of adjusting the way our businesses and agencies communicate to reflect the latest technology.

For historians, this may include a new software program or email plug-in that automatically archives valuable email threads. Email or comment threads may become valuable archived materials in 50, 30, or even 10 years. Those doing research on Barack Obama’s presidency in 2050 may be reading instant messaging records at the National Archives. We must not consider this “ridiculous” or “inefficient;” it’s a completely logical possibility. Perhaps the technology is too new for us to imagine this—especially since there’s not a traditional system for archiving text messages, chat sessions, emails, and Facebook comments.

It would be foolish for us to, at any point in our lives, become resistant to change and adjustment.

You can view some of my favorite photos from the trip on my photoblog.

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Standing atop a parking garage in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee today, I had the privilege of joining a discussion with locals about the proposed re-vitalization of Chattanooga’s central business district.

The group was brainstorming ideas of how to draw more people to downtown Chattanooga. The potential remedies? Unique local shopping, a corporate magnet like Target or Whole Foods, a theater district, a museum. Beneath these solutions, however, lies a make-or-break practicality: parking. In a society that on the whole depends on the automobile as its sole means of transportation, could the convenience or inconvenience of parking influence one’s decision to travel downtown?

I’d say yes, it does– and I say this primarily because of my extensive suburban exposure. I’ve never lived in a location I could consider to be “downtown,” and live in a city (Austin, Texas) that does not have, in my opinion, a convenient or adequate mass transit system. Traveling downtown for me is complicated. Parking spots are usually hard to come by, unless I choose to park in a garage, which can cost over $10. Nearly every street is lined with parking meters, and I (like most people my age) rarely carry enough change to afford over half an hour at a meter. While I’m willing to make this work and pay the price to be downtown, I’m fairly confident a portion of the suburban dwellers being lured to downtown by whatever means may not believe these inconveniences are worth the effort.

That’s why I believe parking– affordable, convenient parking– is a priority in urban redevelopment. It’s important to ensure visitors from all walks of life will be comfortable with a convenient parking solution that won’t “scare them away” from downtown.

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