After reading David Weinberger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous, I realized that the impact of digital technology on culture is even more far-reaching than previously imagined.
Weinberger explores, for example, how the family picture album has been irrevocably altered by new digital technologies. The picture album or scrapbook — as agents of what gets remembered or forgotten by a family — has been transformed by the potential to produce and store vast quantities of data on a computer.
We’ve been raised as experts at keeping our physical environment well ordered, but our homespun ways of maintaining order are going to break — they’re already breaking — in the digital world.
In the past decade or so, millions of people have moved from collecting prints of family events in albums to storing memories on hard drives and compact disks. Today, Weinberger argues, we think about and organize memories differently than we did just a few years ago. We have now gone from managing a couple of hundred of prints in a shoebox to clogging our computers with thousands of digital files on iPhoto or other photo applications.
Digital photography moves beyond what Pierre Bourdieu called a “festive technology” — recording the events people use to consecrate norms such as holidays, weddings and birthdays — to something more akin to a self-preoccupied technology.
Today, digital photography has intensified the documentation of everyday life on a grand scale. Many of us even place our personal lives on display through the Internet for others to see without giving it all that much thought.
At the same time, we are awash in images and information — so much so that keeping up with everything we create is, if not impossible, at least overwhelming.