Monday, September 1, 2014

Deep thoughts: Is it ephemera if it's only on the Internet?

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed earlier today when I came across this tweet from @ConeyHistory.

First of all, this event sounds really cool. According to the current amusement park operators, the cyclops, which dates to the 1950s and is a part of Coney Island lore, will be part of "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland," a traveling exhibit that is booked through mid-2016 at various spots around the United States. This farewell event on Sunday will allow fans to have their picture taken with the cyclops at Coney Island before its departure.

It also struck me, though, that this is a very attractive advertisement for the event. In 2014, so it's been built for use on Facebook, Twitter and websites. And then it won't be needed any longer. A couple of decades ago, this event would have been promoted with postcards, flyers and newspaper advertisements. Ephemera, to be sure. The kind of ephemera that had a chance to be saved in drawers and envelopes. Or to be tucked away inside a book. Waiting for someone to discover it years down the road.

But digital advertisements seem even more ephemeral than ephemera. How will one find them in the future? Will there be an archive? Will it be indexed? What if The Cloud disappears? (And, after today's shameful fiasco, that might not be a bad thing.)

It seems to me that a lot of pretty cool stuff on the Internet is at risk of being lost forever. How will people in 2074 learn that there was a Bon Voyage Party for the Spook-A-Rama cyclops and see how that event was advertised?


Of course, I suppose it's pretty easy to move past all of this anguished philosophizing.

I suppose there's a solution.

As my wife might say, "Chris doesn't call it the Internet. He calls it the Printernet."

Boom. Traditional ephemera.

By the way, if you want to read more about Spook-A-Rama and the (mostly) vanished dark rides of Coney Island, I highly recommend that you check out "Lost Dark Rides and Funhouses of Coney Island" on

And if you really find yourself enjoying that article, be sure to print it out.

1 comment:

  1. "I'm not sure I agree with you 100% on your police work."

    -- Joel & Ethan Coen, "Fargo"

    The word "ephemera" stems from the Greek, meaning "lasting a day". Source:

    By comparison, the Internet is forever:

    Digital advertisements (or digital anything) are not at all ephemeral; rather, the cloud will outlast everything saved in drawers and envelopes or tucked away inside books.

    All the more reason to cherish our ephemera.