Sunday, February 6, 2011

The information superhoarder

The Internet is been around for a while now. its hard to imagine that when it was first developed programmers didn’t think that it had any commercial applications. Ironically, now there the entire market is rapidly becoming digitized. I saw a digital toaster the other day, don’t ask me how toast gets cooked “digitally”, but its an example of how digital is the new god. Its been making me think a lot about the differences between digital and analogue technologies. Is one inherently better than the other? Are we moving to a world where most things will be processed by machines? What does it mean to create when mechanization is involved? Is a machine a tool, or a crutch? And perhaps most troubling what happens when machines replace the skills that we once had to a point that they fade from cultural memory? The more I explore this program the more I feel like a Luddite, stubbornly clinging to the old vestiges of analog and hands one technology. But I understand the value and embrace some of the modern technologies full heartedly. I mean its great that I can go on facebook and talk to my friends in Russia or California and share media, whether it be pictures video or even songs with them. But I want to question the pervasiveness of digital technology only because it seems to be taken for granted in contemporary society. Perhaps this is because I grew up in during the transitional years and can still remember writing my book reports on our typewriter before they became a hipster commodity. But even deeper than that, is our first world nations seemingly unquestioning acceptance of digital proliferation, and a seemingly lack of understanding of all the intricacies required for it to function and in some cases kneeling at the alter of digital convenience even when it is counter intuitive and sometimes downright stupid.

Example: my roommate recently bought a swifer. Now aside from the fact that the one time use drymop, creates a significant amount of waste by trashing the heads after each use, this item also includes a spray function, supposedly intended to be a close facsimile to a mop. When I attempted to use this it to clean up a mess in our kitchen it wouldn’t “turn on”. When I related he humor of behind having to “power” the mop, especially when a plain mop is always powered to my roommate, he agreed but said that it was “hella convenient”. What is convenient about spending my hard earned money to put batteries in a fancy broom? Furthermore, it seems to me that its hella inconvenient given that you cant use it by yourself, without the help of external energy sources.

Has mopping become such a cumbersome chore that we require batteries, that is extra energy input, to get the job done? What does this say about the way that we perceive and use energy? What does it say about the way we perceive labor, or work? Is having a digital mop or toaster better than having a plain old regular one? What is the difference anyway, with the exception of higher energy inputs? This is almost seen as blasphemy in my current program, where the dominate ideology seems to be expansion, capture, and collection of information, without even a though to energy inputs. The idea that we must “save” everything online or digitally ad nauseam seems more like the storyline for an episode of Hoarders than a current cultural paradigm. But then it occurred to me that perhaps, when it comes to information, we all are a bunch of hoarders.

The lack of a sustainable energy conversation in this context gives me a moment for pause, as if the whole media studies discipline is missing a very huge elephant in the room, one that must be dealt with, and soon as with the explosion of data collection and saving information can only continue before we cover the earth in computers to digitize every piece of information in human existence and build nuclear plants to supply the energy for the our information hording behavior.

I will leave you with a recent example. The internet recently ran out of IP addresses. What does that mean? Well, ip address are like phone numbers for devices like pcs, smart phones, basically any device that wants to connect to the internet. Gosh its so easy to rip through four billion, two hundred and ninety-four million, nine hundred and sixty-seven thousand, two hundred and ninety-six addresses. But you know the first world, we LOVE to consume. Basically there are no more phone numbers for devices to connect, but all the computer nerds have already developed a solution called Ipv6 and you can read all about it here. What it means is that they are going to create a new system for giving out “addresses”.

340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them to be exact.

Now Im not a computer whiz kid, but I know that there is no way there is enough energy out there to sustain that many addresses, and I know that they will be distributed over time, but seriously why is no one stopping and going hmmmmmm, how are we going to power this over the long haul? And I swear to god if somebody says clean coal I am going to have an aneurysm.

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