Information is Beautiful but Ceremony is Special

Day in day out we’re bombarded with companies telling us how important it is to remove the barriers between us and our information.  The iPad, for instance, offers to put the web in the palm of your hands. No browser, no operating system, no hardware, just the web, flopping about in your control, an infinitely malleable quagmire of data cupped in your palm.

But is this really a good thing?

In the transition to the digital age, we’ve shed much of the ceremony that accompanied the experience.  Beautiful LP sleeves, the crackling noise of tearing an envelope open, even those moments sitting in the cinema waiting for the movie- the move to digital formats has left these in its wake, forgetting that sometimes the inconvenience can be a fond mental prompt of what’s to come. Why is it that opening your iPad’s box (or unwrapping a chocolate bar- thanks @duncangeere) gives a tingle of excitement and launching a new app for the first time doesn’t?

I can’t help but feel that in making information an unbridled and raw commodity, some of its lustre has been duller and mystique reduced.  The likes of iTunes LP and Coverflow are respectable attempts to re-conjure some of this old joy but maybe those days are now past.

The happy side effect

But there’s at least one nice upside to all this.  Perhaps its supply and demand but the scarcity of these little ceremonial inconveniences has has rendered them even more special than before.  A proper letter has become special sacrosanct script, to be relished and appreciated; LPs, as ever, can become a near religious process of worship; even opening some of the more elaborate DVD boxsets has taken on a little of this precious commodity compared to double-clicking a file.

It may be foolish to mourn the analogue and don’t get me wrong, I know the future is digital, but its interesting that some of the more “analogue” PR stunts can be just as effective as the fancy new digital shenanigans. See below.

- Max Tatton-Brown

May 17th, 2010

  • http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/ Paul Evans
  • Maximilian Tatton-Brown

    Paul, that is spectacular. Considering just hollowing out a proper book and using that instead. Thankyou for alerting me to that remarkable innovation.