Archive for January, 2010

Trite and True

I love clichés.

We so often try to avoid them, but a saying only gets used enough to become a cliché if it resonates with people.

My doctor’s office has one of  those “chicken soup for the soul” style posters hanging in it. It’s really nothing more than a big list of clichés. In public, or in a hurry, I would probably mock its contents. However, when I end up waiting alone in a room for 20 minutes (as I seem to do whenever I go), I find myself getting all contemplative. It’s almost like being a monk in a cell, except the stupid sheet of crinkly paper I’m sitting on keeps me from completely zenning out.

An all-star in the world of clichés is, “we really should do this more often” or its more sombre version, “it’s a shame we only get in touch when someone dies or gets married.” Trite or not, we usually mean it when we say it.

Today I was fortunate to have a good reason to reconnect with a lot of people.  I announced that I’ll be starting a new job next week. I got lots of nice messages back from people I’ve worked with, and it’s got the cliché-o-meter spiking, so I have to say…

“It’s bittersweet.”

Gack. True though. I’m really excited about the new gig, but very much going to miss the people I’m working with now.

So, it’s farewell rtraction, and hello Sunshine Foundation. Depending on how long you’ve known me, this may seem like an odd move  or an obvious one. All I know is that the new role is right up my alley, and it’s a change I’m looking forward to.

In 10 years, will we need an app to simulate nostalgia?

Yesterday, in the process of digging out some toys with which to entertain some visiting kidlets, we came across this great old box of Jen’s Lego:

legoBox

I had never known that, beyond the cool over-sized Lego people,  the box contained some great old catalogues.

Bam – nostalgia hit!

legoKits

First, there was the coolness of seeing ads for Lego kits with single-digit catalog numbers (new sets are approaching the 10,000 mark in numbering).

Even funnier was seeing what I can actually remember being the aspirational technology of the Lego world back when I was 7 or 8.

legoMotor

That’s right, never mind your fancy-pants, newfangled, bluetooth-enabled programmable Lego Mindstorm Robots. Back in those days, I was drooling over the prospect of a 3-way motorized engine for my Lego… complete with a wireless wired remote control! (about 8 inches of wire, from the look of the picture).

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. I think it started with an oncoming birthday and the realization that getting older means gaining an ever-larger pool of nostalgia to dip into.  Every day, the interwebs are making easier to dip into that pool. Chances are, you can look up a video, scan, or some kind of media to satisfy whatever memory you are trying to indulge. That instant access is undeniably satisfying.

I can’t help wondering, however, if that kind of universal access to is also somehow cheapening our experiences. I do worry that (both individually and culturally) as we gain bandwidth, we are losing storage capacity. Because, assuming there is no catastrophic global loss of digital information, we are really filling in all the nooks and crannies of that universally accessible universal library.  We’re not just talking about ubiquity of information, we’re talking about persistent ubiquity. How much care do we take to savour something that takes no effort to find?

Most of us have experienced the letdown of digging up a treasured memento (whether something as personal as a love letter or as common as Welcome Back Kotter) and finding that it doesn’t come close to measuring up to our memories of it. So what does this mean in an era where we may conceivably never lose access to all this ephemera in the first place?  How about the generation whose treasured memories and experiences are either posted online immediately, or are taking place online in the first place? How much are we outsourcing our memories to digital media? How many of the last 100 photos you took have you had printed in hardcopy? Any? How much is nostalgia (and memory in general) reliant on tactile, sensory or experiential elements?

I’m not saying this is simply negative, but it does feel a bit like we’re putting putting all our eggs in one basket. I’m pretty sure it’s one aspect of a fundamental change in the way we think and interact, and I’m not sure is a net positive for the human experience.

Of course, fretting about change and what the younger generation is nothing new.  I seem to remember reading something about it on the Onion one time…