You wouldn’t get it from my blog sometimes, but I am an advocate of technology for many things especially for education. I believe in essence the potential and rewards technology can give us, and if used correctly, controlling it - and not letting it control us… are we all fed up as I am about this app and that app wanting to know my location or ‘we’ want to download your contacts… shock horror indeed… more updates, log on with your Facebook password… you have another reminder… notifications!!! Mmm I could go on… So it is about control. And after reading an insightful article in the Standard last night, yep the Standard, its about balance also. Balancing your digital and your physical. Not sure what I mean? Read the article by Rohan Silva.
The real world is fighting back against being eaten by technology
Evening Standard 10.1015
“Software is eating the world.” So said the ultra-influential Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen back in 2011, describing the way that digital technologies were disrupting old industries, and threatening just about everything on the high street, from travel agents to bank branches.
At the time, this seemed like a reasonable prediction about how things would continue. Surely online shopping would continue to erode physical retail, e-books would inevitably replace traditional texts, and more and more of our entertainment would come from the digital world rather than the real one?
Today, this forecast is starting to seem a little shaky. If you look at shopping, many of the top e-commerce brands, such as Warby Parker and Moo.com, are opening physical stores. Only last week, the granddaddy of all online retailers, Amazon.com, announced the opening of its first bookstore in Seattle, with a view to opening more around the world.
Or take music. A recent PWC report showed that revenues from live concerts and gigs are growing fast, as people clamour to watch their favourite musicians in the flesh, rather than digitally on smartphones or laptops.
So what’s going on?
For starters, there’s a growing understanding that physical objects have unique qualities that the digital world doesn’t.
In the world of cinema, top directors like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are increasingly making movies using old-school film, rather than on digital cameras, because they think analogue recordings are more textured and complex than anything computer code can currently capture.
The same is true with books. Recent studies suggest that we retain information much better when reading from a physical text than a screen, partly because we’re more focused, and also because it’s a more multi-sensory experience.
So if you’re reading this in print, you may well remember more about it than if you’re scanning it on your iPad. (In the case of this particular article, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not.)
Another reason the real-world is fighting back is that we increasingly crave places where we can escape from the incessant chatter and distraction of technology. This isn’t about being a Luddite — it’s a recognition that being constantly plugged into the internet isn’t all that good for us.
Finally, in an age where we can tap a button and access just about any information or content on demand, there’s a countervailing desire for the experiential and the one-off. This helps explain why live music continues to grow in popularity, and also the massive appeal of the likes of Secret Cinema, immersive experiences you simply couldn’t have in the digital realm.
Back in 2006, David Cameron attacked Gordon Brown for being an analogue politician in a digital age. This was a clever line at the time but today the smartest entrepreneurs are returning to the physical world to build brands and engage consumers in new ways.
Technology isn’t going away, but we’re learning to strike a better balance between the digital and the analogue. In other words, software might still be eating the world, but the physical is biting back, hard. That can only be a good thing for all of us.
Chris O'Reilly is an Educational Technologist and freelance advisor for online educational learning material and development.