2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: How Do We Save Our Digital Lives?

Written by Megan Collyer | Tuesday, Feb 11, 2014

Mary Snauffer talks about personal archives in a digital world at SXSW 2014

During her Master's work at NYU, Mary Snauffer studied archiving, and how it was being affected by digital media formats, social networking sites and changing user behavior. Now, she’ll share that expertise at SXSW Interactive during her session, ““How Do We Save Our Digital Lives?” To learn more about Snauffer, read this installment of the Session Spotlight below and follow her on Twitter @marysnauffer . She tweets about industry trends and highlights.

SXSW: What do you mean when you say you’ll be speaking about digital archiving?
Snauffer: From Facebook well wishes on the birth of your child, to an email from your father; these are our digital archives. There are no more diaries, letters or scrapbooks. Our personal history is digital. When we use social platforms we assume our data will be preserved and that they won’t pull the plug on the site, which is what happened when Broadcastr, an app that encouraged folks to share their stories, shut down. A layer of personal stories vanished. The story of this app embodies the threat to our personal archives in our digital world. The threat to our personal history.

SXSW: Have you spoken about digital archiving previously?
Snauffer: No, I haven't formally spoken on digital archiving, but when I bring up the topic informally, it is very often met with great interest. People are interested in preserving their personal artifacts, like photos and letters, but often admit they haven’t actually thought about before.

SXSW: That being said, who do you think your target audience is?
Snauffer: This can be a really wide net. I think the idea of how we are and aren't preserving our personal artifacts so future generations can discover them, is a topic that really can interest anyone. We all relate to housing photos and correspondence digitally on apps and sites where ultimately, we don't have control and there aren't simple ways to go about saving these artifacts.

SXSW: What is your goal of this SXSW session?
Snauffer: The ultimate goal of this session is just to bring this idea to people's attention so they are aware of it, because most people aren't actively aware of their personal artifacts and how meaningful it can be for future generations to find.

SXSW: What excites you about this session?
Snauffer: From many conversations with people, both in the digital/social media industry and everyday people, they get REALLY interested in this topic. It's something they often haven't considered before and when it is brought to their attention they become very engaged. I'm eager to talk about this to a wider audience. I am putting together a session that, I can confidently say, will really excite and interest people. I have talked to so many interesting people and have learned so much about this - I am just so excited to share this during my session and turn everyone into just as much of an archiving nerd as I am!

SXSW: Do you blog?
Snauffer: I blog at the secret bits. My blog is a combination of personal essays from travels, essays on social media trends and fiction.

*SXSW: A few questions not related to your topic at SXSW - favorite book? Favorite movie of the year?
Snauffer: My favorite book is Swamplandia…lovely writing. My favorite movie would be Best Man Holiday. I'm not even joking, I was just so entertained!

SXSW: One more – what’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Snauffer: Bravo TV.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “How Do We Save Our Digital Lives?” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.