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Digital Imagery

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Digital Imagery

Post by Wowfunhappy » April 23rd, 2014, 7:45 pm

This is a creative essay I wrote a couple of months ago, about technology and its effect on the world. I posted it on my blog then, but I thought some people here would enjoy it. It's definitely the best piece of writing I've ever done, so please give it a read if you have time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * "Jeff Bazos says it'll be ready by 2016," I said into the large microphone sitting on my desk. "Can you imagine? Amazon packages delivered in half an hour!"

"But there's no way," said another boy into his own microphone, 300 miles away. "Drones are expensive, and besides, it's dangerous to just drop packages from the sky."

"Jeff Bazos says it will be ready by 2016," I repeated. "But I agree, it doesn't sound feasible." Silence for a moment, then: "But y'know, if Amazon does pull this off, and it isn't too expensive... Marco, I'm not sure I'd have a reason to ever shop anywhere else!"

"I like shopping, though," Marco protested.

"I do too," I admitted, though I wondered, but for how long?

With every new technology, a piece of our culture is forever lost. I still have fond memories of helping children develop photos in the dark room, at a day camp where I worked during my summers off from high school. The kids loved it. They enjoyed turning their film into negatives and their negatives into prints, which they would then run through chemicals under pale red light, watching as their pictures magically came into view. They were sad when the dark room closed, not knowing how close we were to running out of film. I'm amazed the stores kept selling film for as long as they did. Who was buying it? I rarely see anyone with film cameras anymore; I haven't seen a single one since last summer, and that sighting was so unusual that I actually approached the young woman out of curiosity and asked why she was using film. "I don't like digital photos," she had explained. "They're less authentic." When I asked what she meant, she asked if I'd heard the word "authentic" before. I wanted to say that I had—that I just didn't understand what it had to do with film—but she'd already turned to leave, and as she did I couldn't help mentally rolling my eyes. Authentic. What a waste of time. As long as the images looked the same, I couldn't care less how "authentic" they were.

When a piece of technology is released that lets us make more efficient use of our money or time, society has by and large been willing to adopt it, though often not without complaint. The common wisdom still seems to be that screens are turning us into zombies (I guess books are too, then, because I stare at those a lot), that the Internet is making us narrow-minded (ignoring all the topics I've stumbled across while lost in the hyperlinks of interconnected web pages), and that Facebook and Skype and texting and Twitter are getting in the way of genuine relationships. When my family and I went out for dinner this past summer, the waitress offered us a discount in exchange for agreeing to part with our phones for the duration of the meal. I later complained about this bitterly to Marco, who said it didn't sound like such a bad thing—I was out with my family, so they should be the focus of my attention, and besides, I don't normally use my phone during dinner anyway. "But it's the principle of it, Marco," I explained to the microphone on my desk. "The implication is that we're all just so attracted to our evil technology overlords that we actually need a financial incentive to break free!"

Marco and I have never met in person, though not for lack of trying. We've attempted to arrange visits, but it's a long trip, and even after five years we have never been successful. Even so, I consider him one of my best friends. I wonder how far we are from a time when no one needs to travel anywhere—when we can take classes online, and converse over Skype, and have purchases delivered to us via Amazon's autonomous drones. Travel is expensive and time consuming, and it wreaks havoc on the natural environment. Our screens do disconnect us from the world, but we can also experience the world through our screens. Being wrapped in a digital universe of our own creation may sound like a sad existence now, but once screens and speakers mature to the point where they're indistinguishable from the real world, and once we can recreate smell and touch and perhaps even taste in addition to sight and sound—eventualities already being explored in many university research labs—would it still really be such a bad thing?

Well, would it?

I can't find a flaw, but I can't get excited; it's a case of disliking my own reasoning. It's because I remember my nights of shopping adventures with friends, and because of the kids and the film and the dark room, and because of being five years old and watching shooting stars with my father, as the spectacular image of the milky way rose to infinity above us....

As long as the images looked the same, I couldn't care less how authentic they were.

Had that night sky been an IMAX screen, would I have known the difference? Perhaps I would, but theaters are improving, and the sky is not. Are the ancient castles in England worth more than the ones at Disney World? Because Disney's castles draw more crowds and generate more revenue than their authentic inspiration ever will. I want to believe that authenticity carries intrinsic value, but I also believe in following logic, and I can't find logic in authenticity when there are superior illusions to be seen. I will never be able—don't want to be able—to become one of the anti-technology holdouts, driven by nostalgia to decry change for change's sake. Once the rest of the world has gone digital, I don't want to be the girl holding onto film.

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Post by ElectroYoshi » April 23rd, 2014, 9:10 pm

I've never really looked at it like this before. I don't agree with everything here, but I think this is a very interesting way to look at technology.
I need a shot again, that sweet adrenaline.

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Post by Phantomboy » April 23rd, 2014, 10:38 pm

That is really true. I can see both sides of the "change" in our world. On one side, I am really impressed just how far we've been carried by our inventions. Heck, the first flight in an air-plane was in 1903, then in 1969, just 66 years later, the Apollo 11 mission was under way. I see myself as a forward thinker, but who will treat themselves to a bit of nostalgic reflection ever so often.

While I am amazed by the quality of the speaker of my phone, no music tugs at my brother and I quite like Mario Kart 64 and Smash Bros 64 soundtracks. While I adore the speed of modern day internet, watching a shockwave video load in through the wayback machine still makes me grin. I love both old and new, indulging in both yesterdays and today art!

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Post by totaldile » April 24th, 2014, 8:17 am

It's kind of like 'growing up'.
When we 'grow up', we typically discard our childish tendencies, and conform to a more 'adult-like' understanding of the world.
When we're young, we do things in a simple way because we can. learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide in your head, but once you get to high school, you're permitted a calculator. As we 'grow', we do things that are 'better'.

Or, for a better way to explain it, I guess it's the concept of tradition vs change: do we value sentimentality, or efficiency?
The emotional side of the argument says sentimentality.
The logical side says efficiency.

I suppose it's really about whether we as humans are more emotional or logical.

I, personally, am quite sentimental, but I do find myself getting caught up in 'new' advances in technology. I remember inviting all of my friends around to play Mario Kart DS because none of us has Wi-Fi in our houses.

The concept of reality vs digital imagery one I find scary, I'm scared I won't have the ability to resist.

My concern, though, is what will happen to 'reality'? If we end up as pseudo-hikikomori (shut-ins), performing all of our schooling and working from a chair at home, what will happen to experiencing reality?

In all honesty, I'm concerned about the mental health of the future generation.
If they grow up in a pseudo-real environment, how will they handle it when some real and inevitable comes along?
Such as a family member suddenly getting sick, and passing away? Will they be able to cope with the reality of the situation, or will they delve deeper into the virtual, pseudo-real world?
...when will it stop?
Or will it never stop?
Will we simulate AIs to act as our passed compatriots, to 'escape' death?
...then, where will we draw the line between reality and pseudo-reality?

This prospect scares the hell out of me.
It really does.
I enjoy progression, but...
I enjoy nostalgia even more.

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