Our Culture Is Now And Only Now

In this blog text I will share my thoughts about our lives and our culture. There are multiple perspectives one can take. Today I choose to ponder the fragility of our lives and culture. My point of view is that technology feeds the fragility.

I was walking in the city of Tampere. They are building tram lines. The tram will be running in 2021. It shall pass by just next to my home. I am pretty happy about that. Back to this moment – excavators are digging soil, gasoline and electric powered cars are passing by. The sight in front of my eyes barely delights me. I see it every day. Excavators mean traffic jams. I dropped for a coffee in the market hall on the main street, Hämeenkatu. On the cafe’s walls there are photos representing Hämeenkatu in 40s and 50s. Hameenkatu had pretty few cars, people were mostly cycling or walking. Watching the images feels nostalgic. It feels kind a cool and nice. If I take a photo, would some one be watching it on 2068?

Looking back on Hämeenkatu street – it all looks so normal for me. It is a view I see daily. I am almost bored to see it. I am so used to it. Lets imagine what happens in the future. People living 50 years after me might think that a photo taken 2018 is nice and nostalgic. It is for them something what the Western movies are for me.  But this can happen in the future only if they get to see the photo. If they shall not see the photo they do not get to experience Tampere main street on 2018. If I shoot a photo – how should I store it? How should I preserve my dear moments with my friends or family? How could I make sure I could have something to show in year 2070 for my grandchild?

Each generation has used the most advanced technologies of their times to conserve their previous moments. People before us used photos, people before them paintings, people far earlier cave paintings. If I would like to talk about this moment in 2018 to my grandchild what should I do? There is no reason to do cave paintings, that is for sure. But on the other hand if we all collectively choose digital formats and store our moments on gadgets which are probably not available on 2070 our memories will vanish. When memories vanish part of our culture vanish. What you can pass to next generations would be only what you remember at that moment. Just like hundred years ago, when photographing was not accessible for all people. My statement is – we should be more advanced, we should have more advanced ways to store our memories. It should be possible because we have all this technology present that can help us to remember. It is like double edged sword – same time the technology makes our society more fragile. Technology makes our lives and memories more easily vanquishable. Isn’t it ridiculous? We are maybe so busy living our every day moments that we do not have time to see it.

It seems that technology makes our society fragile and there fore our culture is present only now and here. This makes our lives very superficial. What permanent is left behind? Who prints photos anymore? Even buildings are meant to last only 15 years. Even construction companies do not like building monuments which would last for centuries. People do not like even building houses that last 100 years. Even buildings seem to be approaching one time use paradigm. Just like our memories. Shoot the photo once, never watch it. Throw-away society. Our whole lives are documented in the memories of the gadgets. Lot of content that no one never watches for the second time.

Maybe some multinational and longlasting company saves our memories on their hard drives. In case we lose our memories they have stored them.  What if we lose our gadgets and the companies go bankrupt? Then our memories can be shared only verbally. Verbal information transmission is only able to give partial glances to our vivid memories. The generations before us printed their photos, and that is their strength. I am able to take my uncle in law’s photo in my hands even after he has lost his phone and passed away. His photos resume year 1982, when I was four. In contrast, now all is digital, content is stored on devices, and sometimes backuped in cloud services. Our lives are in digital formats that might not be readable in 2100. What does this mean for us? What does this mean for our society and our culture?

In 2200 what shall a data archeologists find out when he is willing to understand the lives of people living 2018? Maybe something like Google or Supercell will still exists. Maybe on their servers you have millions and millions of photos that can be studied. Or maybe when everything is in digital format, the memories have all vanished just like Mayan culture. What sort of image they get on year 2200 about us if they only see all mass products lying on a landfill? Back to Hameenkatu view with excavators – should I paint the view, or maybe I should at least print my photos and store them? On an individual level – should one invest some time on making memories available later?

A long time ago I met a guy who said that photos are his precious content. He would save them if his house would in the flames. Do we have so many photos that we do not even know what is important and worth of keeping?