Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sweet dreams are made of these

I think I'll start with my conclusion (kinda like that movie Memento): We're a generation that stores memories in bits and bytes. We're not the same anymore - we're digital.

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Imagine this: our photographs are digital images. They've been manipulated, shrunk / blown up, enhanced, and generally tweaked with. Photos can be altered, distorted and they no longer speak the thousand words they used to. We cannot believe what an image tells us anymore (hence that thousand words might lie). Online, pictures you see of good looking people lie - Photoshop has made us equally beautiful (or equally ugly - if everyone were beautiful, ugly ceases definition).

Take a step back (favourite consultant phrase): in our parents' generation, memories are hardware - diaries are written in a book (well, they take another form now, and are not strictly diaries anymore - mr brown presses this point mercilessly) and photographs are solid (some of them have that glossy feeling). Memories are made of hard stuff - real stuff. Not bits and bytes. Not pixels. Not magnetic media.

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The speed of change is extraordinary (ok, this isn't news, but bear with my $0.02). In the short space of a generation, we've moved from the real world to a 2-D screen. Photographs were touchy feely things - I can hold it, lament the age of a faded photo, look at the rawness of it (badly taken photos if you're the kind in my family... with those old wind up compacts).

What do we have now? We now interact with an image through a mouse - point, click and drag. Well of course you can always get it printed out on that glossy paper and stuff, but the whole point is that, like those clones in the Star Wars universe, it doesn't quite have the same soul.

We interact through an interface now, not directly anymore. Its just one small step away from those babies floating in ruby red goo ala the Matrix, their sole interaction being electric impulses to their nervous systems. Oh well, its a stretch of course, but isn't any interaction through a computer really just interaction through an interface?

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Our memories are, more often than before, electronic. They reside in your HDD, CD-ROMs, thumbdrives, and in the internet (someone else's HDD, strictly speaking).

We remember less and less - we store more and more.

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Our brains are incapable of retaining memories for very long periods of time. We are selective creatures, and we colour our rememberings; we're like a neural network, adaptive and fluid, changing itself to better get the output it is required to. We remember an image of an event, and it changes and morphs over time. We gloss over the details, glorify the victories, portray ourselves in a better light.

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The harsh march of time leaves a mark on us and our memories. Our consciousness is a battleground: we cannot be conscious of everything, or rather, we cannot always keep in view things which we've once been conscious of. That fleeting moment of clarity should be treasured, because it isn't coming again.

Write it down. At one point, it was important. At some point later, it will be important again.

It might not be important now, but what is now but the present? A gift of prescience - now is now, and not now later, for later now will be history.

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There is nothing of permanence in a digital world - our thoughts are in easily retrievable formats. They are digital media, and are easily carried everywhere; always ready for consumption.

What do we leave for historians of the future then? Our HDDs?

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Like all things, it began with good intentions. Revolutions start out that way, and when they become the establishment, the rules change (some say, the rules only appear when revolutions become establishments). We've moved online and it scares me - what do I leave behind?

Bits and bytes.

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Sweet dreams



Photo: Bali at sunset (circa Nov 2004)

2 comments:

One Little Twit said...

Perhaps the preservation of HDDS will be the most viable industry to go into. But im glad i still retain a bit of 'innocence'. I still prefer to retain my most valued memories with the use of journals.

greyscalefuzz said...

I used to keep a journal too. But with the progression into blogs, I've not written anything down in a hard copy for a really long time already.

Whats more, with owning a digital camera, I make less prints. Technology moves fast indeed.