The Protagonist project is ahead of its time. The ideas are sound, the research relatively easy to complete, and the concept is strong. The problem is that current computer technology and proprietary ownership of that technology makes creating a Protagonist platform difficult and somewhat expensive. At a future date, and perhaps not that far in the future, this kind of cross-platform video creation will be possible. At that point the technology will be used by a wide array of businesses and individuals. From my own research, I know that the Protagonist platform would create the kind of video content that funeral directors and other organisations working on personal memorialisation projects would find quite useful. One of the other groups that will benefit from this technology is archivists, many of whom will encounter enormous difficulties in the near future when it comes to storing digital content and information for prolonged periods of time.
For me, the entire project, and working with Katie, pointed towards what kind of future these online content platforms are working towards. At this point and time it seems far-fetched that one single company or government entity will own and run all online content platforms, so these disparate groups could end up creating a Protagonist-like system that runs across the groups. I have my doubts that this will happen, but it could.
The project also opened up another point for me, which is this: Maybe it is completely acceptable that most of a person’s online content is eventually lost and ultimately deleted. We first world Homo sapiens currently live in a historical moment in which the concept and practice of information preservation is crucial for an individual’s identity. I’m no longer convinced that our future cousins will necessarily view a lifetime’s worth of digital content with such reverence. Indeed, the difficulties in maintaining accessibility to that information as computer technology changes is itself alone a fundamental issue. Many people fail to realise, I think, that internet years are significantly shorter than human years.
Dr. John Troyer
Deputy Director, Centre for Death and Society
University of Bath