Before I begin this post, I want to lay a little ground work to show where I am coming from. I have no degree in any *”ology” and these ramblings reflect only my own musings. I am an avid futurist and technologist, in particular, web technologies. I am a believer in its ability to change the future in major ways, largely for the good, as it has already done over and over.
You always know when things are changing because people are talking about that which is in flux. And we are talking now more than ever about technology, progress and in particular the web and how it integrating with our lives.
I found myself happy to hear of schools introducing the iPad to classrooms replacing heavy, expensive text books. More information on this can be found here at ipadinschools. I still think that this is a wonderful change, but it got me thinking about where we may be heading.
What will happen to the physical things? The books, CDs, photographs, newspapers etc. And in the process of replacing them, what is it that we risk losing?
Does a physical photograph mean more, and have more value than its digital counterpart? Does a physical book have more value than a book downloaded to your tablet? I think for the large part the answer is a resounding no, but occasionally it is a yes.
My family has boxes full of photographs and attics full of “stuff”, very few of these items have any real meaning other than to map out the past as a timeline represented as things. This can be achieved far better in the digital realm; and in my opinion, the digital realm provides more relevance and connection, particularly in a spatial/temporal sense.
But there is something to be said about having and holding something which has had time and craft put into it through purely physical interaction. A physical object can create the sense of a physical connection with the maker of the object. When I hold a scrapbook, made by my partner or hold a drawing done by my daughter, I know that they have held, touched and created this object and that means something; and I have yet to feel that “something” from their digital counterparts. So perhaps the first thing lost is the tactile properties of an actual object. Feeling and touching that shared object adds a level to the shared experience, as stated, the giver/sharer has also touched the object. Perhaps other elements lost are rarity and uniqueness. These elements add a great deal of value to an object, but in the digital realm, there is almost nothing which cannot be easily reproduced, either by copying it to many places or by replicating it through some digital tool. There is no risk of loss of something important with these digital objects. Almost all of us have some form of back up of our important information.
Of course, the information contained and shared is more important than how we choose to share it. Yet I do worry that, even though a piece of information shared is clearly important, we treat it with less reverence purely because of the sheer amount of information being shared with us at any one point in time. This may well be due to our lack of experience in dealing with this volume of information, and maybe it something we will become much better at over time.
However an interesting question and problem is raised: if we accept we are losing something, how do we create and share something of worth and value in a digital format? How can we impart and understand the time and effort expended to create that which is being shared? I’m not sure whether these questions are truly important, but they matter to me and I hope to some of you too.