Each new technological era brings its own malady, a sense of displacement that inevitably accompanies innovation—that is why innovation is often disruptive. Like East Germans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some feel nostalgia for a more comfortable, albeit less progressive, past. Let’s count today’s disruptions: We routinely live at different scales, in different contexts, and at different settings—Default, Phone-only, Avatar On, Everything Off—on a number of screens, each with its own size, interface, and resolution, and across several time zones. We change pace often, make contact with diverse groups and individuals, sometimes for hours, other times for minutes, using means of communication ranging from the most encrypted and syncopated to the most discursive and old-fashioned, such as talking face-to-face-or better, since even this could happen virtually, let’s say nose-to-nose, at least until smells are translated into digital code and transferred to remote stations. We isolate ourselves in the middle of crowds within individual bubbles of technology, or sit alone at our computers to tune Into communities of like-minded souls or to access information about esoteric topics.
Paola Antonelli, Design and the Elastic Mind, essays by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Paola Antonelli, Peter Hall, and Ted Sargent