Friday, May 1, 2009

Musings on presence, and value.

Remember when you had to buy a CD to listen to a song? Or when you had to be at home or in front of a TV at a specific time to be able to enjoy your favorite show? Or when you had to be at home to get a phone call from a friend you haven't seen in ages?

Now everything is within reach 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Everyone you've ever met, given a shit about, not given a shit about, loathed, or even had a passing thought about is within reach instantly through Twitter, Faceebook, Text, IM, Myspace, whatever. Every tv show, every song, and every film is available to download to any device with internet access or a USB cord, and you dont even have to go to the theatre to see it, you can just torrent it and watch it at home by yourself at 3 in the morning while you sob about having no life.

Of course, all of this is ludicrously convient and very very useful, and honestly as a proponent of new media and an avid downloader of everything under the sun, I really shouldn't even discuss it. But I miss the presence things used to have. A phone call was the primary form of communication, and it had a certain warmth. I own a top of the line cellphone, and I believe I have made a total of 20 calls on it so far, seeing them as an inconvenience to my gogogo lifestyle that is "much more suited for texting or Twitter". I have friends who's voices I haven't heard in a year, but often text. I see more movies On Demand or on my laptop than I do in theatres.

What I'm getting at, is instead of seeing these kindof things as events, be it phone call, communique, television program, film, etc, is , we tend to view them as background activities. Things not requiring real attention, or value, or "giveashit". We as a society have moved towards convenience versus value. Everything used to have at least some semblance of presence. A record, a VHS, a friend's face, but now its just a file, or pixels on a screen.

And that's terrible.

When everything is placed in the background it doesn't get anywhere near the respect it did when it had that presence. Nelson Mandela is just a guy in a room if nobody's listening to him talk. I fondly look back at my childhood and think about how much I valued the VHS tapes I'd bring home from the store, I'd lovingly take care of them and keep their boxes in pristine shape. Because after all, that wasn't a bit of tape inside of plastic, that was the damned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and how dare some punk kid like me allow them to come to harm? But now it all seems to just be so many MBs of memory. It lacks the feeling, the depth.

You tend to value something more when you can actually put your hands on it.

I guess time's change though. But I'm not sure I like the way this change took us.

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