Virtually there

We were talking about Kindles last night. About the feasibility of using them in schools rather than giving kids texts. I liked the idea. Books are beautiful but there’s something fun in the act of downloading, and features like the highlighted passage function are as fascinating as the handwritten scribbles used to be – plus you can add yours over the top.

The glitch, of course, is that the books aren’t really yours in the same way that the physical ones are.

When I woke up this morning, I saw that a friend I’d made over the internet had posted that, 15 minutes in, he was already bored  of Facebook. I don’t know the context of the comment but my initial response was one of panic.

We make connections on Twitter and Facebook that, when they’re dependent on the medium surviving, are relatively easily lost.

I have been thinking about the temporariness of the web for a while now. Working in digital, it is easier to spot the patterns in people coming and going. Realising that people can lose their library on Amazon’s whim – and that I am tired of my iPhone but my music is hopelessly tied into Apple’s iTunes, have made me increasingly conscious of the compromise that we’re sometimes making.

The fact that the web has made the world so much smaller and that things like music and books are available at the click of a finger is one of the most transformative and wonderful things of my lifetime, and yet it sometimes makes me very scared –

The antidote, I have found, for the relationships, is to bring them offline. I’m not sure, yet, what the solution for the media is. The discussion is going on, apparently, but for the moment, I’m uncomfortably aware that my iTunes and Kindle libraries don’t really belong to me. That we’re building things for the future that could be lost on the whim – or fall – of a company. That the opportunities which blew me away might have have had flaws which I didn’t immediately see.


10 responses to “Virtually there

  1. Really interesting thoughts and there’s a lot of relevant stuff here that resonates. I’ll try and keep this concise and not go off on my own waffle-trip… ;P

    My own personal position is that Farcebook is awful. I hate it but every time I go to deactivate the account I think “how will I keep in touch with the five people on here I need it for?” It’s a bit similar with books and music if you’ve purchased them through the digital medium itself and it all comes around to convenience. These artificial constructs that control your relationships, identity and possessions cheapen it all and can actually raise negative aspects and actively make people run on them. We’re all using these things like children, simple-minded and enamoured with the gadgetry that provides for us all the time on tap but going into massive tantrums, shock and fear when it doesn’t deliver or is taken away.

    If it’s all about the medium and not the message then something’s messed up. Does that make sense? Anyway, the ultimate point is that it’s all transient anyway and that we’re emotionally and behaviorally controlled by a lot of insubstantial structures and notions that distract us from the true nature of life/modern reality. (Sorry for ranting on!)

    • No apologies needed – interesting to hear what you think. I agree that they should be handled carefully and we haven’t quite got there yet – but I think it’s also interesting to think of them as parts of modern reality rather than distractions from it, if that makes sense. I guess we’re still navigating this slightly inevitable change – we can’t retreat from it but it’s not yet clear how it’s going to pan out long term and the balance between being controlled and it being beneficial is hard to strike.

  2. I’m not so sure about Internet connections because I think if you are attached to someone and they are to you, if they stopped being online, closed their accounts and pissed off back to real life, then they’d make the effort to say, “Hey, going offline, but here’s my phone number”. I think otherwise those connections are supposed to be transitory.

    The media one I struggle with because I don’t need the stuff in my life. Like the tunes I will listen to like maybe 20 times and then be bored of, and I’ve had my book collection in my Gran’s loft for 5 years now and can’t really remember what I own. If I wanted badly to read any of the books again, it wouldn’t be hard to find them elsewhere. We assume that we need physical representations of things, but the enjoyment is not from the object, it is from the way that we experience the media, what it provokes in us. You don’t need the object to experience that – you can only ever read one book at any given moment, even if you swap between them.

    Relying on stuff makes us vulnerable because stuff is very easy to lose. Far better to enjoy the moments we have with it and then look for the next thing to experience.

    • Agree totally re the relationships and also re the value of the actual experience. I think I have a different experience of media and part of the pleasure, for me, is returning to the items and the associations or personal meanings that they have for me. Lots of my books are scribbled over and have corners folded down at resonant part (or, increasingly, Kindle highlights) and I’d like to go back to them for those in the same way that I like to go back to songs that have captured an era. It’s just working out how to do that without being tied down by stuff and also without risking losing it all when iTunes fails or changes its mind about something!

  3. *Transient? I don’t know, grammar has gone AWOL this morning 🙂

  4. I have a string of abandoned diaries all over the net. My life from c1999-2004 is recorded in meticulous daily detail on an off-web BBS system called Mono; then from 2004-c2010 on Livejournal. My idle thoughts on media economics and journalism are on my now-abandoned blog; my photos are scattered across Flickr, FB and a dead site called Fotopic. I never used MySpace or Geocities but if I had I’d have stopped by now. I am already bored for FB and Twitter too. I am resigned to the fleetingness of these things. Perhaps I should have mentioned this to the people who paid $100bn for FB stock but meh, fuck em.

    • …or the people that bet that they’d go up in value again 😉 I guess where we are now is slightly different in that everyone’s lives (rather than just a few people’s) are wrapped up in networks like FB and there’s a sense of exclusion (on a practical level) if you’re not present there. It will also be harder to untangle ourselves from a platform which contains so many assets and links – or maybe not? I didn’t get involved in Livejournal so I don’t know if it felt like events and pictures and contact details were shared so readily…or maybe it was that the technology wasn’t as up to speed as it is now and it’s the marriage of mobile technology and social media that has made platforms like FB so powerful. I’m not resigned to the fleetingness of it all yet but I am interested in seeing where it all goes and how something will come along and replace platforms that have become tied into many people’s ways of communicating.

      • Nah, when I leave FB it’ll be the third “social network all my friends are on and everything gets arranged on” I’ve abandoned. It’s not even that hard – it looks hard before you do it because social and network effects are powerful, and then one day someone you know and like quits and the next day you and all your friends decide en masse that today’s the day you’ve had enough and there’s something better and off you all go.

  5. That might have been me losing interest after a scant quarter hour the yesterday. It had less to do with the medium, to be clear, and more to do with the international news that was dominating my feed.

    I still like FB though, and social media in general, although I see your point. I haven’t fully migrated to e-reading, but I would be hesitant to trust a cloud for all my backing up. I have so many redundant drives, for music, pics, and manuscripts, that keeping track is almost a nightmare. But worth it.

  6. Ahhh – knew I hadn’t read the wider context. And yes, you’re right. It is worth it at the moment.

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