I read the news today (oh boy)
It occurred to me as I read The Sunday Papers – yes real hard-copy, inky-fingered newsprint – that paper still works. It offers a different way to present and consume information, an alternative to the constant vortex of messages, images and channels that the web and other media provides. Also, or is it just me, but I find that reading a newspaper (or a book or a magazine) is somehow a more physical and even a more social exercise than the equivalent laptop, tablet or smart phone? This is one instance where I do not crave a personalized or customized experience…sorry marketers and social media gurus. There is a whole unplugged world out there that isn’t digital, online and virtual.
In a previous post Out of cyberspace I listed a number of activities where the web and related technologies enhance or even instigate real-world endeavours, such as book reading, running, meeting and sharing an interest in the same.
Engaging with technology is not a binary decision (on/off, yes/no), we all can and do choose different ways to get information or perform tasks, where different routes are available. Here are a few personal examples:
- As above, despite having access to a huge array of online news, I also like to read newspapers, do the crossword, tear out articles etc.
- Despite the easy access to a huge amount of digital multimedia entertainment, we still choose to go to the cinema and the theatre. Even watching a DVD at home somehow feels more ‘real’ than on-demand streaming of the same film.
- Isn’t it nicer sometimes to run around the park, walk on the beach or in the countryside, than burning the same number of calories in a gym (and with natural audio and visual stimuli).
- I sometimes choose to buy insurance or financial services from a high street bank or real human broker. Despite the promises and best efforts of the insurance aggregators (Comparethemarket/GoCompare), for example, sometimes direct and personal is cheaper and more convenient. Even if it isn’t, what price service vs. self-service?
- Against all expectations vinyl music sales are growing, to a point where there are vinyl-only radio stations and a new (resurrected) vinyl-only sales chart. I don’t see mix tapes, or for that matter wax, floppy disks or punched cards making a comeback, but hearing an album in all its scratchy, linear, real-time glory is a whole different experience compared to Spotify!
Another example, an article from the aforementioned paper, reported that there is a growing trend amongst 20-somethings to play board games. Gaming cafes have crossed over the Atlantic, and if you’ve forgotten how things work without a screen or joystick there’s a “game guru” on hand to show you how to play Scrabble, draughts and dungeons & dragons…
In the same way that the Slow movement promotes a slower more thoughtful lifestyle, there should be a ‘Real life’ movement to counter the giddy unrelenting drive (who’s at the wheel anyway?) for more technology in our lives. That’s not to say I don’t love tech but enough already!
The lights are going out
There was another article in the same newspaper, a snippet of news that might otherwise have passed me by in cyberspace. Apparently the UK is already using 8% of its energy on the web and related technologies, the equivalent of the output of 3 power stations. Extrapolating these figures suggests that the whole of the UK’s power will be consumed by the internet by 2035. Of course this type of prediction is nonsense, the supply-side capacity will increase but there will be new and more efficient power sources (and lower-powered devices), but maybe there will also be a tapering-off on the demand-side as well?
To borrow a phrase from the health industry, we all like to think we have informed choice. Well, sometimes the choice is between a real and a virtual experience, and sometimes it is OK to choose life.
(c) 2015 IT elementary school