Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Future is an Empty Room

This is the evocative title of a post by Michael Antman in his blog 'Popmatters'. He evokes a future which is already coming to pass: a place where there are no books, magazine, DVDs, CDs, paintings or photographs. He then goes on to say:
'All of these media are being replaced by a single cool, impassive, and implacable delivery system: the screen. According to a recent study conducted on behalf of the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence, we now spend between 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 hours a day gazing at a screen, whether of the television, computer, e-reader, or smart phone variety, and no one is predicting that this rather stunning number is likely to decrease any time soon.'
He goes on to consider what is happening in the high street now, and how this too is reflecting this same emptiness without character - it is a blandness he has seen before.

At first this seems depressing and somewhat hopeless, but the essay doesn't end that way. There is, he says, a place for all these things - the new technology and the old - and our new challenge is finding the balance, and also working out what works best.

It's a very interesting essay, and I recommend you take a look. Michael is hoping to initiate discussion on his thoughts.


Blogger Paul Halpern said...

Very interesting issues raised and a bit scary. I dearly miss record shops, yet I must confess that I purchase the bulk of the music I buy online. I end up spending much more time staring at a screen than I would like. It is sometimes hard to recall life before computers became so essential, although it wasn't really all that long ago. I still refuse to bring any technology along when I go on holiday; it's my only escape (and chance to catch up with my reading of real books).

Wed Jun 10, 03:20:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Paul, the computer is left behind when we go on holiday too. It feels like I've cast something away when I do - yet when I come back settle quickly into my old ways.

And yes, I miss the old shops too, the quirky ones that don't exist any more...and yet I suppose I too have been responsible for their demise.

It seems like by taking always the easiest ways we lose out.

Wed Jun 10, 08:51:00 am  
Anonymous Gilles said...

Maybe Michael Antman stares too long at his own screen... or... maybe he thinks the world is like his own town... or maybe he is only provocative, speculative. Everyone I know still buys books (and reads them), we go to the theatre, to museums, etc. Even if we do not consider the so-called "Third World", not everyone uses computers, he would be surprised.

On the other hand, I think people who don't use computers tend also not to read a lot, and those who read a lot will read both on the screen and on their iPods and books. Since a small percentage of all the books ever published is available online, I'm optimistic.

As for paintings and sculpture, there's no comparison! Seeing a Renoir or a Waterhouse or a MirĂ³ "en personne" is not comparable to seeing its reproduction on a screen, and most people realize this, I'm sure.

When television was invented some pundits predicted people wouldn't go to the cinema or to see plays anymore, and the car didn't keep people from loving horses, for instance. In a word, I think Michael Antman is... an idiot. Sorry.


Fri Jun 12, 08:54:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Gilles - thank you. I think all your points (apart from the last one) are valid ones. I do think we tend to forget there are people who are not on-line, who don't read books, who never go to museums or art galleries...we do tend to think people inhabit the same world as ourselves.

I don't think Mr Antman is an idiot though!

Sat Jun 13, 05:31:00 am  
Anonymous Gilles said...

I was an idiot to call Mr Antman an idiot! Sorry of that.

By the way, the numbers are out for museum frequentation: a 20% increase last year in my city, and a 15% increase worldwide. Most of these people surely use computers also...

Sat Jun 13, 05:32:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Gilles, you are a very honourable man and I'm glad you visit my blog.

Very interesting, and encouraging about the museum visitors - actually, that is a big increase.

Sat Jun 13, 05:45:00 pm  
Anonymous Michael Antman said...

Gilles, thank you for deciding that I'm not an idiot after all!

Seriously, I do appreciate all reasonable comments, including yours. I think, however, that references to paintings, sculptures, and plays (much less horses) are irrelevant to the topic of my article. What I'm talking about is the vulnerability of those art forms that are readily digitizable (principally recorded music, books and other printed matter, and movies viewed at home) to being reduced to their least tangible forms, in the process emptying out our living spaces, our streetscapes and our lives.

Of course, people will still go to museums, sporting events, plays, concerts, the opera, and so forth; that has nothing to do with the topic of my article.

Clare, I do appreciate your posting this item. I think the discussion is valuable. When I first wrote the article, my primary fear was that readers were going to accuse me of stating the obvious. Instead, I've seen just the opposite: People who love books and bookstores, and records, and record shops, but who are in denial, and state either that this "great emptying out" isn't happening, or isn't happening in their area, or won't happen for a few years yet, or is happening but only as a result of the current economic climate, etc.

I have less difficulty understanding others who reflexively embrace all new forms of technology and will be happy to see the printed book disappear (though needless to say I don't agree with them), than those who love the printed book but can't bring themselves to see how it is threatened.

Sat Jun 13, 10:16:00 pm  

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