Yearbooks in the age of digitalization

By Mac Weekly

Controversial, fun, addicting, and ostentatious, the online database known as Facebook that serves as everyone’s digital personality seems to be replacing all other records. Let’s be honest with ourselves: as much as we’d like it to, Facebook is not going to last forever. Having something more permanent than Facebook, like the traditional printed yearbook, is underappreciated and deserves a revival in some form or another. The last printed yearbook for Macalester has seen was in 2006, the first appearance the yearbook had made since 1968. The apparent comeback turned out to be a fiasco after MCSG was forced to foot the $15,000 bill that resulted from the lack of sales. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t appreciate the nostalgic and sentimental value of printed yearbooks, which are becoming more and more obsolete in an age defined by increasing digitalization. While there are many benefits of recording information online, there’s something to be said for stumbling upon a dusty yearbook years from now and being able to skim through the memories of college. While information can in some cases be easier to access via digital resources such as the Internet, it’s easier to imagine recorded memories getting lost in the vastness of the World Wide Web. Having the physical presence of a yearbook means you can hold your college memories in your own hands.

The failure of the attempt to bring back the printed yearbook in 2006 was not the first time the record-keeping effort went under. Spotlight, a pared down collection of of student photos and information, appeared to fill the gaps for a while. It intermittently served as a more condensed version of what a yearbook would be until it too eventually went out of existence. Whatever the reasons for that are, we should be more appreciative of the value yearbooks can have. Macalester provides a unique experience unlike that of most other colleges; being able to look back at that experience can provide a respite from the real world that we will all eventually have to become a part of, bringing a smile to our faces as we remember the funky world of Macalester College.

While the gradual disappearance of the printed yearbook is disappointing, it is also inevitable. Concerns over the consequences of the increasing digitalization of our society-most notably the increasing obsoleteness of printed books-ultimately lose out to the efficiency of digital realms such as the Internet. In light of the situation, it’s nice to see that Macalester is taking steps to create an online yearbook of sorts. Rather than having personal profiles on Facebook as our lasting memories, which lack the formality and concreteness that comes with having personal profiles in printed yearbooks, and are likely to disappear or at least change radically as we enter the realm of aulthood, library archivist Ellen Holte-Werle has recently devised a plan that will create somewhat of an online yearbook. The library will collect and organize most of the photos, but there will also be a section specifically allocated for student photo submissions. After the Seattle Post-Intelligencer became the first major American newspaper to go online-only last week, it seems more and more inevitable that archives and records will eventually be exclusively online. Whether we like this trend or not, it’s good that Macalester is hopping on the digital bandwagon now, rather than later. It’s not as good as having something you can hold onto, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by a board comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editors and Opinion Editors. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.