My wife and I were recently cleaning out some pre-renovation clutter, including our stockpile of books. A few insights into this process:
Apparently, my wife and I read a lot. We pulled out nine full boxes of books, ranging from South African history to Russian fiction to Dr. Seuss (I’m sure that was mine).
One of the (re)discoveries was my Master’s thesis from 2002, entitled Community Design in the Information Age. I was surprised how relevant most of it was (if I do say so myself), given the light-speed changes that have occurred in information and communication technologies since I completed this work. Going through the thesis and the old books at the same time was interesting as one of the concepts I discussed in Community Design was the de-materialization of certain elements of our lives. As digital media became/becomes an increasing part of our lives, the actual physical artifacts decrease. A perfect example are books themselves. I now own a Kindle reader, which is as thin as a magazine, yet could hold every one of the books I just removed and have room for another thousand to spare. That’s a lot of trees that (potentially) don’t need to be cut down in the future. Following up on this idea, I found an interesting blog post on EPublishers Weekly about ebooks and sustainability for the publishing industry.
Another concept I discussed in my thesis was the idea of synchronous and asynchronous communication. At the time I wrote Community Design, if you needed to talk to someone right now, you would call them. If a response could wait, you would use email. Since 2002, however, iPhones and Blackberries have meant that email has morphed into an assumed nearly-synchronous way of communicating. This morphing of email is what led TED curator Chris Andersen to recently create an Email Charter. Not sure if it will be picked up, but he made some great points in a recent interview on CBC Radio’s Q.
All in all, a surprisingly interesting journey looking in the rear view mirror and reflecting on what has changed in a few short years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to haul a few hundred pounds of books to the used bookstore.