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Digital Technology: Problem of plenty

Digital Technology: Problem of plenty

While technology promised to simplify life, it has instead made it more complicated. Wind your way through this digital labyrinth where there is a problem of plenty. The solution? Streamline rather than multiply.

The digital universe is littered with a gamut of multitasking technologies and gizmos galore. The digital universe is littered with a gamut of multitasking technologies and gizmos galore.
If you're a tech freak like me, then you must own several portable computing and digital media devices. A smart phone, a pocket-sized music and video player, a laptop, a net book for travelling and a touch screen tablet are now standard-issue gear for the urban tech lover. Technophiles are easy to spot; they're generally lug ging around a large backpack to pack in all the devices and associated paraphernalia serving a spectrum of functions. The justification?

Nishant Shah, Director of Research, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
Nishant Shah, Director of Research, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
Each gadget fulfils a specific need even though it's capable of virtually all the functions the others perform. The digital age has often been celebrated as an era where data can be duplicated with ease. In the world of bits and bytes, the distinction between an original and its imitation is blurred. And the trend isn't restricted to data alone. Gadgets too, have been recycled, tweaked and modelled closely along the lines of their originals. A handful of functions get remixed and shared between several portable digital devices. While each is launched with the promise of something unique. what they usher in is the age of gadget fatigue.

Functionality or Fad
We are dealing with a digital ecology, where the hardware is increasingly closed, software is always in the making, and applications are short-lived, with all of these components performing multiple functions. So do we need all of these devices? Here is an experiment: Make a list of all the things your various gadgets promise to do. Now make a list of all the things you do with each of your gadgets. You'll realise that you do essentially the same thing with each of them-play games, browse the web, use an office suite, connect to social media and make phone calls. Sure, you can make arguments about experience, usability, convenience and context. But at the end of the day, the million dollar question still remains: When that one single machine promised to 'do it all', why do you still have an array of gizmos serving a single specific function for eachof your needs?

Possession and Procurement
Gadget fatigue is not something to be taken lightly. With synchronous technology developments and instruments that do not always 'talk' to each other, there is a constant need to convert, transfer, save and sync. We still spend the better part of our days investing incredible amount of energy, time and money to ensure that all our platforms are on the same page as each other. And it does not end there. The digital market has become a large-scale factory constantly churning out faster, smaller, smarter and more efficient devices at an alarming rate. This has brainwashed us into becoming almost hypnotic zombies in a quest for the next 'latest, greatest device'.

New or remixed? The original idea of convergence computing was to build one device that would address all our needs and make life simpler. One that would centralise information and data, which could be managed on a single interface. However, that vision has long been lost. What we have instead, is perpetually multiplying information devices which resemble each other while simultaneously maintaining a distinction unique to them.

So the next time you hop into the electronics store to check out the newest offering at the altar of digital dreams, stop and ask yourself if your new acquisition is really 'new' or if it's just a remixed version of what you already have cluttering your laden backpack. When it comes to the world of technology and digital objects, Steve Jobs was right, "less is definitely more".

Published on: Feb 01, 2012, 12:00 AM IST
Posted by: Navneeta N, Feb 01, 2012, 12:00 AM IST