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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
And did you get my message / On the People's Radio? I wrote it in Alberta /Across the prairie spine.
— Rheostatics, Northern Wish
March 2, 2014
On Data, and Tearing a Hole in the Universe

Data is a funny thing. For a long time—essentially, as long as human beings have been creating things our ability to have stuff was limited by the practical realities of space. Things took up space, and when you ran out of space you essentially had two alternatives: get rid of some stuff, or get more space. The end result of this is a television show called Storage Wars that, frankly, makes me despair for humanity’s future but that’s a separate topic.

Stuff is different in a digital sense: there’s less of a relationship between the physical size of the stuff you have and the quantity of it. I had over 800 CDs at one point in my life, and stored them on two shelving units that took up about 12 cubic feet at best guess. I now have almost 3,000 albums that take up about 600 cubic millimeters. That’s an order of magnitude less.

Naturally, this ability to store huge quantities of things in small spaces led to its own kind of Storage Wars: digital hoarding is no different than physical hoarding except in its practical reality.

I used to hoard data, though I’d like to think I was selective about it. The video above is an example—it’s a great look inside Cern, and I liked it enough that when it was first released I downloaded a copy of it and stashed it on a hard drive because I wanted to keep it. Predictably, I’ve can’t recall ever having watched it since.

Things have changed in the last few years: where once the Internet was characterized by a somewhat transient nature, there are portions of it that are settling into a relative permanence. I thought about the other day when I deleted that copy of this video—as little as six years ago it seemed like it might disappear anytime while today it seems likely that the copy on YouTube will be around longer than I could possibly have kept my copy of it regardless of how well I backed it up.

This is a good thing on a lot of levels of course. It’s nice to be able to find these things but that permanence also seems like a lack of innovation. YouTube may be fun but its user interface is awful, and the service is limited to one way streaming media: there’s nothing remotely interactive or mentally engaging about it. In essence, years of innovative delivery and and development of a tool that promised an entirely new form of entertainment when compared to a five-hundred channel universe of television has led to the development of a service which renders the computer as nothing more than a television.

That’s kind of sad, and I rather hope that the era of innovation returns to the medium but it’s too important for it to disappear.

Posted by skooter at 8:36 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: CERN, Interaction Design, Internet

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