Dreaming the Post-Digital Home
As our media libraries become digital, we're freeing up space in our homes for other things - and post-digital artefacts.
I've been tidying up the flat this weekend, in rather hopeful expectation that we'll be moving house soon.
There's one thing you won't find in our flat: CDs. We went all-digital for music around five years ago, and all our CDs that predated that move are sat in a storage unit ready to be reclaimed – and possibly disposed of – once we've move into a house.
DVDs are an endangered species around here, too. Other than my wife's treasured Lord of the Rings DVDs, we haven't acquired any DVDs in pretty much the same period of time. The last TV series we bought on DVD was Battlestar Galactica (the remained version). In recent years, if it's not downloadable from iTunes, we don't watch it. Indeed, while we've been renting, the TV has been in storage, and we've been using the computer as our “TV”.
And as for photos: well, I have a lot of them. I have my own. I have all my late parents'. But I'm not creating any more – at least, not any more physical ones. Since I picked up my first digital camera back in 2001, I've bared shot a roll of film since – or had any photos printed out.
And here's something I thought I'd never write: books are looking pretty at risk, too. Since I finally succumbed to the Kindle a few months back, I've become strangely reluctant to acquire new physical books. And this is coming from a man who had never, ever got rid of a book he owned a decade ago. My possessions are being reshaped, and that's making me think about how we might plan the next property we live in. Why? Because the bane of most householders – storage – is becoming less of a problem than ever.
Simply put, the question is: what will we do with the space that all this media used to take up? For over half a century, our living spaces have been dominated by bookshelves, by video storage chest, by DVD racks and CD stands. The furniture industry has been busy coming up with more and more innovative – and space-consuming – storage solutions for our ever-growing media libraries. And one by one they're being eroded, swept away by a tide of bits that can easily be hidden on a single hard-drive. A decade ago, I interviewed a mapping company who made the claim that they had the unimaginable large 13 Terabytes of data. Now, I have not far from half of that kicking around this flat, in less space than half a dozen hardback books would take up. And that can hold all the media I need right now.
Our digital migration is creating spaces in our homes for post-digital objects, ones that combine the utility of the digital world with the beauty of physical objects. The much-maligned concept of the “connected fridge” has been kicking around for over a decade now, but as the internet of things – surely a key underlying principle for the post-digital world – comes ever closer, I want to leave space. I'm not sure what post-digital objects I'm saving those space for – but I'm looking forward to finding out.