Good Digital, Bad Digital

da VinciI just read an article this morning in the local newspaper (online CBC version) about a recent discovery of a sketch in a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript. It is believed, by those who discovered it, that it is a sketch of a young da Vinci. Previously there has only been the famous chalk sketch of him as an old man. When you see the drawings side by side there are some very clear resemblances.

The interesting thing about this discovery was the way in which it was investigated. They digitized the manuscript page and then starting removing the lettering that obscured the sketch by digitally fading the letters to white. When that was completed the entire ghostly image was visible. Then they took that image and used current criminal investigation techniques (anyone watch CSI?) to age it. Once that was done they were able to compare it with the chalk drawing. Apparently it was like looking at a twin. Then they reversed the aging and the image was returned to almost an exact replica of the newly discovered sketch. How cool is that? They still have some work to do on it – trying to bring out more detail – but for now its good enough to call it a young da Vinci.

So this started me thinking. With the advent of the computer and so many of us spending so much time writing online, what are we leaving for future generations? Now, I realize that we’re not all da Vinci, and the discovery of our faces in a manuscript wouldn’t be that big a deal, but who knows right? We can all dream! And now with digital cameras and the like, our photos are everywhere – no mystery to how we looked at any point in our lives. But my point is, there is a limit to what you can do digitally. There’s something splendidly mysterious and thrilling about old manuscripts, notebooks, and sketchbooks. When was the last time you took out a pad and scribbled something down instead of using your Blackberry, or sketched a picture instead of whipping out your phone-cam?

da Vinci PortraitI have a notebook, as I don’t have a Blackberry or any digital equivalent, and bring it with me when I’m not near my computer. I can never be sure when I’ll have a Eureka moment and need to write it down right away. But there are no fancy sketches in it…no ghostly images of my face. (just the thought makes me smirk) But think about the longevity of books. Granted many have been lost, or heavily damaged, but so many remain. What happens if, down the road, resources become scarce and the current availability of digital is greatly reduced? Will people living 500 years from now still be able to access the current information that is flying through cyberspace? I have no idea but I’m not betting on it. What do you think?


9 thoughts on “Good Digital, Bad Digital

  1. What a beautiful discovery – I can’t even imagine being in the same room with such a piece of art. It must be powerful and awe inspiring. How fortunate to have technology that is able to see the image beneath.

    However, I’m so with you – I don’t believe that even 100 years from now all the information in cyberspace will exist. Part of the problem may be that there is just too much – anyone can publish anything on line. There are no standards, no criteria. And who’s to decide if and what should be saved, archived, whatever? There will never be anything like the concrete actuality of holding a book that has been thought out, carefully written, edited and edited, then published with a professional standard giving the work its just claim. It’s kind of sad to think that this artform may fade in favor of the cyber world.


    1. Joanne, some really good points you make. Not to sound apocalyptic…but I sincerely hope there is someone to look back 500 years from now at anything of quality we leave behind…whether it be books or digital. And you’re right, the sheer amount out there is mind boggling…I guess if you are smart you preserve some of what you write in the old fashioned way – with some sort of stamp of approval! 🙂


  2. Nothing comes close to the feel of a good book on a lonely trip or on a cold night. Well almost nothing!
    You’re right. I wonder what will happen to all the un-printed material. And, I’m talking about some very good stuff out there in cyberworld. I hope there will be a way to preserve it all for the years ahead.


    1. Yes, Abu Fares. I hope we discover a process by which to save the good stuff…but until then, I guess its up to the individual to start their own process and not leave it for someone else to decide. Its nice to see your comments as always.


  3. I heartily agree, Isobel. That’s why the photographs that matter to me, I make with film. Yes FILM. Not Digital. Particularly black and white film where it image is formed by metallic silver grains. I don’t expect them to last 500 years, but I’d like to give my grandchildren the option of deciding what to do with them.


    1. Brigand, good point about photography. It certainly feels like film is becoming a thing of the past. I’m glad there are people out there like you who still practice the art. Thanks for dropping by!


  4. Well, Hello everyone!

    I think that it´s an extraordinary information. It´s unbelievable the Leonardo Da Vinci´s contribution to our humanity ( maybe he wasn´t a “human”, hahahah).
    I would like to continue reading your articles, ok Isobel?.
    P.D. I´m sorry, My english is not good, I´m mexican,


    1. Welcome, Alejanque, to my blog! Your English is perfectly understandable! Thank your for your comment and it would be a pleasure to have you drop by now and again. Leonardo was definitely an extraordinary person!!


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