It's All About The Information Marty
We've written about this idea before: that there is only a finite amount of information that people can get any real use out of with our existing technology interfaces and social norms. For example, even though you'd probably be able to get a whole lot more information out of a heads-up-display than a PDA, you would still be a social outcast if you put on the ole' geek goggles.
But is more really better? Rajat Paharia who writes Rootburn.com doesn't think so. In a recent post, he wrote about the "Digital Photo Effect" or DPE. DPE is what has happened to the way that we interact with photographs since they became overwhelmingly digital. Now that we can take so many of them, and so easily dump them into a folder on the computer, there is often a lot less interaction with them, and he feels he tends to look at them with less interest than physical photos. And he sees the same trend happening with mp3s in his collection. Since it's so easy to obtain more songs, they almost automatically accumulate in your playlist. Then you are constantly bombarded with new material that you're not used to; songs that really need a concerted effort to listen to, instead of the ones that you're comfortable with from many playings.
And it doesn't stop with music and photos. MovieLink.com and other "online rental" sites are primed to make video the next big media file to accumulate and share (come on, file protection inevitably breaks down, and the movie industry is already facing similar volumes of filesharing to what was first going on with Napster).
In a recent lecture, Viridian Mega Man Bruce Sterling talked about a number of driving technologies which he believes are leading us toward a world where information, like the history of an object, or a stream of data from an RFID reader at a shopping mall become the only real valuable assets. A video of the talk is available online, and it's really pretty interesting (although you have to admit that science fiction writers can get a little carried away)
Ever since humans invented numbers and accounting, we've been obsessed with growth; with more of something than last year. More land in our country. Larger Harvests. More cars off the assembly line. More Christmas presents than last year. Bigger houses to put the presents in. More is a fine way to measure things, but it doesn't tell you anything meaningful about quality.
Design isn't about more. Design is about quality of experience and quality of concept. Media like movies, music, books, plays: these are one of the purest manifestations of design. Design with almost no physical embodiment. It would be a shame to see these things reduced to just another "piece of more" to collect. Can't we create designs which emphasize media quality and experience quality while still allowing growth of the collection?
We have to. Whether they are in your mind, or in a digital image of song, the greatest tragedy is to lose the preciousness of memories.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team