Friday, January 7, 2011

What's Keeping Me From Sinking

"The Disposable Culture might offer many things, but stability and longevity are not among them. I fear for the "fully digital" push--because one war, one bomb, one EMP, one earthquake, and it all can go away. Marketing idiots and future-philes want us to teeter on the edge of another Dark Age, to embrace the possibility of losing all of what makes our culture tick, all for convenience. But what happens when something goes wrong, as things inevitably do? Everything "virtual" disappears, maybe forever.

No thanks. I'll stick with printed paper and physical discs. Because this push for pretend possessions has no appeal to me, and I think it's more dangerous than we are led to think. There are points where marketing and the drive for profit winds up hurting the companies, the culture, it's trying to serve, and I think this is getting awfully close. Maybe conceptualizing future war or disaster is a little bleak, but a quick look back at history tells us war and disaster is about as common, and certain, as rain and sunrise. "

I ended up seeing something very late last night on Kotaku (see above) about how this person was fed up with what he/she referred to as "the disposable culture" videogame people had found themselves in. This person also spoke somewhat hysterically about how "one EMP or earthquake" could lead us to a new Dark Ages, and oddly enough, that if this disposable culture went to its logical conclusion by everybody purchasing more digital pieces of media, those pieces of media will be beholden to the people who'se service they're on and when that service goes under, historians will be lost as to find those media.

This person holds on to their NESs and a couple games, confident they'll be able to play them in continuing years, but the plebs who buy things on digital services can't count on that.

This person is wrong, of course. Most of the catalogs of any digital storefronts are the same, with a couple oddly timed releases here and there. Quick: Name something that Steam won't get if Good Old Games goes under. This person is also wrong about the decay of systems. I'm not sure the half life of a Sega Genesis is anything to bank on in 2020. Or a PlayStation, for that matter. And! That's assuming TVs still have the same kinds of audio/video/etc plugs in those years.

He's right in that we're going to have to pay for it again, (or not, if we go to...unauthorized digital services, to employ a euphemism.) but those digital storefronts will be purchased or acquired by others starting up.

What's the shelf life of books? This isn't a joke. Finely bound books might have a better chance of survival, but I'm pretty sure my wall of paperbacks is going to survive into 2030.

But that's not the point. What is the point is the idea of backwards compatibility and a universal file type for information. Your computer may not play .m4a files, but it sure as hell will play mp3s. Your computer may not be able to read a .doc file, but it will be able to read a .txt file. Do we have that going forward? That's what I hope we have. Because: if we're ever living in some crazy Fahrenheit 451 scenario, the entire works of Western literature, or at least three books by Dickens, can fit on a 1 TB external harddrive. (That's a joke, kids. Dickens was paid by the word so his stories are exhaustively long.)

Even if we don't have that now, look back at OINK. That was a place that had almost any piece of music you could have ever wanted, with more constantly being revealed and provided by music obsessives. Yes, OINK was shut down, but it's hard to believe OINK hasn't been entirely reconstituted elsewhere, even if it's a collective of other trackers. Somewhere in the world, there are at least hundred people who have every book ever digitized, because they literally can't stop.

It's those people that will keep books/music/video games/movies going and spreading. The obscure stuff will fade, but obscure stuff always does. Yes, everything virtual eventually disappears, but so does everything tangible. My bookshelf of books I haven't read three feet high shows that I'm unlikely to ever prefer the digital version of something, but I recognize it has an incredible value who'se upside is constantly growing.

I was going to leave a cool ending here, but I just saw that one of my friends had iTunes delete everything off of his iPod touch on Twitter. I want to leave that hanging in the air instead.

Clash covers are usually good. Here's an unusually good cover of Straight To Hell by the Menzingers. There ain't no need for youuuuuuuuuuu....

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