Small things that change, and small things that change us.

This is not an article lamenting a lost past, as that is boring and indulgent, but more of some thoughts on small things that change, and the relationship to human habit.

I just picked up an old book to read again and look what I found as the book mark. People below a certain age won’t know what this make-shift book mark is made of. (I wonder what the cut off age is. About 12 year old? 9 years old?)

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We tend to record and physically label less and less these days. Use of CDs and DVDs, possibly the last bastion of permanant physical storage means, are decreasing in favour of disposable virtual options. How does this change our relationship with the media we are engaging with, particularly when it’s something we’ve recorded ourselves? Recorded tapes were treasured, labeled or made covers for. The recording, (which had to happen in real time), and labeling of the media/music tapes, were events in themselves, and took time and attention. Of course tapes weren’t permanent either and could be recorded over, but now things are download in seconds and label themselves. The consumer process and the consumed product have become divorced. Small seemingly insignificant changes in habit such as this, will affect our responses to the world with over time, and make tiny shifts in our narratives – such as our personal connections and individual identification with the media we engage with, and less sense of direct ownership of digital products we buy. Arguably, digital embraced societies are less materialistic (in the physical collecting sense) today, but are much more disposable. We no longer have as much physical stuff (books, CDs etc), but we have much more data.

I’ve deliberately not even mentioned the fact that this is a book not an iPad, and that bookmarks will soon become extinct. That’s interesting, but I’m also interested in the small changes, such as how the scraps of paper that we used as bookmarks, such as this VHS sticker page, had a cultural life, history and set of habits all of its own.

Possibly it is in the tiny, seemingly insignificant changes in our habits and behaviour which is where the significant shifts in our evolutionary patterns emerge, and not in the giant changes of the technologies we use.

I’ve typed this complete article on my mobile phone whilst laying in bed at a silly time in the morning (middle of the night). That is a big technological change that has affected my behavior, and the behaviour of countless others. The fact that the reason I’ve chosen to write it here, and not downstairs at my computer, is because my wife is away so I’m not disturbing anyone, is a smaller change in my habit that has specifically changed me, and my relating narrative and identification with this media in this circumstance.

Marshall McLuhan said the ‘media is the message’. I would add to that, ‘the habit is the story’.

Dr Shawn Sobers – copyright 2013

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