the nature of my life and entrapment:

The will to move and travel, and the solid realization that I have accumulated such a significant amount of stuff that I’m really tied to where I live for life or at least the near future.

But what can technology do to help? In my personal library of guessed figures, perhaps 250 computer books, a small selection of literature of different types, maybe 100 more books, around 400 DVD’s, 400 music CDs, not to mention 100 12″ vinyl recordings and another 150 VHS tapes, this would take a lifetime to digitize.

So where does that leave me?

I know probably a very good chunk of this is actually available online in some form. Books scanned as PDFs, or available to read online through some book scanning projects including out of copyright books on wikipedia, safari.oreilly.com for tech books (which I highly recommend). Audio is surely available to download, and even if not, it’s pretty easy to work your way through a music collection, ripping the discs. I’m sure I’m 80% there with an iTunes full already. Downloadable DVD’s and videos are available online, though generally through questionable means.

..this leaves fudging a workflow together to rip A LOT myself.

my safety is in bits

If I somehow managed to digitize my library, then I have the longevity of the media to consider. What if a hard disk breaks, so I need a backup. What if my house gets flooded? I need to co-locate.. what if the formats become obsolete? I need to convert them to keep in line with current formats. I think the last one isn’t really a problem in the short term, but there’s been some interesting talks on the longevity of file formats for data you don’t access often. It’s entirely possible that when you get round to looking at a rip of a DVD or video file on that shiny new hardware in 5-10 years time, that perhaps the codec isn’t available. Say you move to Linux from OS X, or whatever the flavor of the decade is.. perhaps you have trouble finding a codec that works with your new hardware.. so do you convert, or wait for someone to write the codec.. or even stick with your old hardware for certain files?
Obviously (I would hope) that most formats today will still be alive in 10-20 years time, but there’s definitely no guarantee. The ubiquity of MP3s, MPGs and WMVs, PDFs, JPEGs etc. pretty much sets the scene for a backwardly compatible set of future software. The less used formats, or perhaps DRM’d files (with missing passwords) may, however, pose a problem.

attachment:

A friend brought up a very good point about this: “Isn’t the web a better resource for a lot of that stuff?”
It raises a question that I overlooked hugely, which isn’t directly related to that question itself.. The concept of a web resource is based on its usefulness, while my issue with media is one of personal attachment more than pure usefulness alone. Not specifically memories associated with buying or owning the physical product, (although I’m sure some of that comes in to play), but more the fact that having the item sitting on a shelf in a familiar position, surrounded by related titles, allows me to place the information into a context I define. The internet is a huge resource of things that I don’t own, and so have no attachment to, while a book may go out of date, I have spacial references that tie me to the information. For example, I have an old book called Pro PHP4 which I find one of my favorites on the subject. I’m not sure if it’s because of the layout of it, or the order of the sections, the examples used.. whatever it is, even though the book is old, it is still a resource that I sometimes go to. I obviously have far more up to date books, but something about this takes me to certain sections, things that I have marked as interesting over the years with post-its, tabs or napkins.. the books are alive once they have been read, and the bookmarks serve as reminders from the outside as much as to the pages themselves. Sometimes a receipt poking out of the top from a sandwich, used as a bookmark places the last reading into a time context. All of this will be lost in digitization. Memories associated are gone.

We are then becoming very complacent with the internet as it stands today. We use “The Google” and Wikipedia without the respect we give to items we actually own. Wikipedia has over 2,500,000 articles in English. Many of those are interesting to us but most will never get read. If we had a printed version of it however, it might be fun to sit and just thumb through looking for interesting topics to read about. We need to consider this when designing interfaces, that spacial data needs to be associated to information and links, or we get confused and lose interest.
This is a topic that I will explore further in the series of HCI posts.

It’s that feeling of looking around the house and thinking “if it wasn’t for the media, I’d be reasonably portable!”

Just to include some environmental issues into this, if my main computer was a laptop with a couple of USB hard disks, or hopefully in the near future, a few terabytes of solid state built in, I could save the power that currently runs my dual G5 Powermac with large screen. Go from possibly 1000 Watts for the whole setup including speakers, to less than 50 Watts, and the world can enjoy the savings in power. If we all move from desktops to laptops we could expect a significant reduction of total power consumption, related carbon emissions, as well as the new lifestyle that the portability could bring.

Hopefully this ‘vision’ of the near future is in my grasp, the technology is mainstream, but how much effort is required to complete the move..

 

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