Are we in the midst of creating a lost generation of recipe illiterates? Only a generation ago, people still saved and passed down family recipes full of culture, memory and family significance. In today’s age of printing everything off of the internet and rarely saving recipes, how will we keep track of the cultural and familial memory we’re creating? Personal Digital Archiving could assist in keeping historical and family recipes, but there are some challenges to curating a useful and meaningful archive.
Cookbooks: Then and Now, a Cultural and Historical Perspective.
Hillary Davis, Bjorn Nansen and Frank Vetere from Information Systems at University of Melbourne, Toni Robertson and Margot Brereton from Information Systems at the University of Technology Sydney, and Jeanette Durick and Kate Vaisuitis of the Queensland University of Technology published an article (2014) during the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems that outlines some new technologies that could update existing cooking traditions, and familial recipe sharing and recipe keeping practices. Davis, et al identify homemade cookbooks and recipes as significant cultural artifacts and folklore due to both content, historical significance. Davis, et al seek to illuminate ways that technology can step up to identify opportunities to augment recipes to make them more useful to the reader.
Even in a New York Times Article from 22 years ago, New ‘Lost Generation’: The Cooking Illiterate (1992), Trish Hall, Opinion Editor of the New York Times, warns of a new generation of people that don’t know how to cook and can’t even follow a recipe. While this article is more than two decades old, it is surprisingly adept at explaining much of America’s current culinary ability. Could this be due to the loss of home cooking and recipe keeping?
When traditional cookbooks are compiled by local women, they can be as a part of the cultural history as any new technology. Jill Nussel’s Heating Up the Sources: Using Community Cookbooks in Historical Inquiry (2006) effectively demonstrates the need for family cookbooks and recipes. Nussel, a professor of History with a focus on Food History at Indiana Purdue University at Fort Wayne, believes cookbooks are of historical benefit to the community, because cookbooks show how women defined their place in their homes and the community. Women would likely have never been published formally, and because of keeping these recipe collections, they have become historical artifacts and time capsules of a long forgotten time. Nussel illuminates the need to preserve cookbooks by exemplifying the cultural significance of them.
Personal Archiving: The Digital Future, Technology Heirlooms and Hard Copies
Mike Ashenfelder (2013) a digital preservation specialist for the Library of Congress, outlines the reason for personal digital archiving, citing that the general public “is the largest group of digital-file stakeholders in the world… unaware of what digital preservation or personal digital archiving is, or why they should care.” In Heidi Glenn’s similar article on NPR (2013), the same point could be made regarding family photo albums. Glenn’s vision into the future of a truly digital age is a combination of hard copy and digital. Glenn seeks to answer the question, how do we best preserve our memories when they are scattered and ephemeral? While our lives may be fragmented between the digital mediums, we have become addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, etc – according to Glenn, we have already found a way to meet in the middle.
Available Technology Resources and Challenges to Personal Digital Archiving
Through the Library of Congress, the general public has access to local libraries which are creating events and outreach programs to educate and assist with managing their digital presence (Ashenfelder, 2013). In David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (2008), Weinberger works to find new ways of organizing data, and moving past the frustration that many people feel when attempting digital archiving. Weinberger, who is the Senior Researcher at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society, advocates for a much richer way of organizing digital data, and raging against structured searches and the same old way of utilizing digital data. The computer needs to be able to alphabetize but also by miscellaneous ways like ingredient, taste, situation, allergy, event or need. If PC’s are supposed to be the new cookbooks as Weinberger points out, why haven’t they achieved this goal?
As Ashenfelder (2013) laments, many people do not even know what Personal Digital Archiving is, or why they should even care what it is. But Glenn (2013) points out, the sheer amount of work it would take to effectively and perfectly curate a digital archive or scrapbook is daunting for the average person. Because of this, a combination of digital and hard copy is more feasible. In William Odom, Richard Banks, Richard Harper, David Kirk, Sian Lindley and Abigail Sellen’s research paper on technology heirlooms (2012), Odom et al explain that not only is it pertinent to keep historical records and personal artifacts, but to also keep working models and true versions of old technology. They advocate for not only keeping historical documents, but to also create a digital record of the data created in so-called “old” technology. However, this idea of keeping old technology like floppy disks and drives with photos starts to feel cumbersome and redundant after a time, and the reader is left wondering if anyone will do this at all. Odom et all believe that with the advent of all of this new incredible technology in the future that we will have the ability to save more and more, because these new technologies will theoretically take up much less room. Ultimately, they believe these digital “things” should be passed down to the next generation in the same way physical things are.
Ashenfelder, M. (2013). Personal digital archiving. Retrieved from http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/documents/lc-digital-preservation.pdf
Davis, H., Nansen, B., Vetere, F., Robertson, T., Brereton, M., Durick, J., & Vaisutis, K. (2014). Homemade cookbooks: A recipe for sharing. Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, 73-82. doi: 2598510.2598590
D’Oratzio, D. (2014, January 7). Whirlpool imagines a kitchen of the future with a touchscreen stovetop. Retrieved from http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/7/5285250/whirlpool-touchscreen-stovetop-concept
Garde- Hansen, J. (2009). My memories?: Personal digital archive fever and Facebook. Save As… Digital Memories. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 135-150. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://ds.haverford.edu/fortherecord/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Garde-Hansen.pdf
Glenn, H. (2013, July 30). In the digital age, the family photo album fades away. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/07/25/205425676/preserving-family-photos-in-digital-age
Hall, T. (1992, January 14). New ‘lost generation’: The cooking illiterate. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/15/garden/new-lost-generation-the-cooking-illiterate.html
Kirk, D. S., & Sellen, A. (2010). On human remains. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 17(3), 1-43.
Laroche, R. (2014). The Recipes Project. Retrieved from http://recipes.hypotheses.org/
Marhsall, C. C. (2008, March/April). Rethinking personal digital archiving part 1: Four challenges from the field. Retrieved from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march08/marshall/03marshall-pt1.html
Nussel, J. (2006). Heating up the sources: Using community cookbooks in historical inquiry. History Compass, 4(5), 956-961. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2006.00342.x
Odom, W., Banks, R., Harper, R., Kirk, D., Lindley, S., & Sellen, A. (2012). Technology heirlooms? Considerations for passing down and inheriting digital materials. Retrieved from http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/people/asellen/techeirloomschi.pdf
Weinberger, D. (2008). Everything is miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder. New York: Times Books.
Thanks to Professor C and Professor P for their edits and encouragement