As a 90’s kid, one of the most exciting things one could own was a Casio digital watch. I got my first digital watch as a gift from my uncle. It was fascinating as instead of trying to figure out the time from slowly rotating hands, as you had to do with an old-style analog watch, you simply read the numbers off a digital display. Sony Walkman was another product that excited me and I vividly remember the numerous fights I have had with my brother to hear our favorite songs. The act of flipping the tape in the Walkman simply meant 8 songs on this side and 8 songs on the other side. I could feel which sides which of the songs were. Several such products like the razor blade, calculator, pager, postcards, ink bottle, locks, etc. have faded into history. Stamps are also another one that used to be on top of my list and a hobby I used to love – not sure if they have any value now. Since then, we have come a long way in getting accustomed to the idea of digital technology and a digital world. Now pretty much everything seems to be digital, from television and radio to music players, cameras, cellphones, and even books. I can’t tell you how much I used to like smelling the pages of books.
My daughter, though, learnt how to read time with an analog clock but in practice she never has the opportunity to look at one. It has been a little difficult for her to understand the pace of time as she only sees numbers and is never able to relate to the rotations of the arm of an analog clock and its relation to the sun. This goes on to show that the ‘digital’ has moved us away from materiality and understanding of the intangible.
Is that an issue, that we don’t understand the materiality of the intangible?
Money as a product of legal transaction has also gone digital. Gone are the days when we could touch and feel notes and pretty much weigh them. My dad being a banker would tell me stories of how he figures out the amount just by weighing the notes in his hand. The days of thinking if I am paying more for a product or how much am I spending and how much money I actually hold are passé. The early days of credit cards also saw a huge percentage of the population getting caught in over-spending and going bankrupt. On the other hand, there have been several stories of money laundering. Transition over time has taught us how to relate to digital money now. At the same time, there are also many warnings that digital currencies could be misused for illegal goods and services, fraud, and money laundering. The anonymity associated to the use of digital currencies (such as bitcoin) transactions increases the potential of possible misuse.
Technology certainly has its advantage, but that doesn’t mean it’s always better than analog. An analog watch might be far more accurate than a digital one if it uses a high-precision movement to measure time passing, and if it has a sweeping second hand, it will represent the time more precisely than a digital watch whose display shows only hours and minutes. Surprisingly, analog watches can also keep time better than quartz ones: the day-to-day variations in a mechanical, analog watch tend to cancel one another out, while those in an electronic quartz watch tend to compound one another. Generally, the most expensive watches in the world are analog ones, though the world’s most accurate atomic clocks show time with digital displays.
It is a new perception of materiality which relooks at the usual approach of understanding its shape, dimension and structure. This new materiality introduces us to the world of the intangible, not so much as the disappearance of matter, but as the emergence of a matter which is ‘other’. Materiality is in the grip of invisible matter (digital). It is important that we understand this new materiality which knowledge institutions should incorporate as a large part of their future pedagogy.
Now that’s a challenge – let’s imagine how we would teach time and its relation to future generations without using an analog clock. Future generations shall sure find a way or even better; find an alternate to ‘time’.
If my dad wrote this blog he would have started it with ‘As a 50’s kid one of the most exciting things one could own was …………..And so goes the story of human evolution.
Ar. Hariesh K. Sankaran, Associate Director & HoD, School of Interior & Furniture Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.