Thursday, February 10, 2011

Digital Hoarding

Faded Paper Figures--"Invent It All Again" (mp3)

Do you do it, too? Is it in your mind, this notion that you've got to have everything possible stored up on the latest digital device, in case of either the Apocalypse or terminal boredom?

In any event, it's happening again. This time with the IPhone 4. No sooner do I get the thing registered and up and running than I am scouring the Internet looking for things to load onto it. I've had it 3 days; I've already amassed over 40 Apps. Using them, I can do everything on the phone from tune my guitar and transfer money to my children (why don't they ever transfer it to me?) to find recipes for mixed drinks to locating and listening to any NPR station in the country live.

I have not listened to NPR for years. I am a digital hoarder.

I think it probably started way back with the Walkman, the one that played cassette tapes. Well, maybe before that. It might have started when we got our first VHS player. At that time, we started taping everything on a timer, to watch later or when we got home from work, things like Live Aid in its entirety, All My Children (we have never watched a soap opera before or since), movies off of HBO, and episodes of Miami Vice. You start out taping what you are going to watch later that day; you end up taping things you might watch some time, possibly. And the Walkman was the same way. Given this chance to make some portion of a massive record collection portable, I had to have mixtapes, explorations of individual artists for "deep listening," and stuff from friends that might make it into the personal canon. It always had to be some combination of what I loved (but not too much, cause I might get tired of it), what I had bought recently, and what I hadn't really listened to.

Years later, I threw out bags of both kinds of tapes. Heat and time had taken their toll, and even if they hadn't, there was no way left to watch or listen to them.

Portable CD players presented their own set of problems. More portable than records, but still an overlapping collection, the traveling version of CD pleasure involved

In recent years, it's gotten really bad. A good 60% of the music I own on CD is now located on one Ipod, which also carries a good portion of music from other sources--Itunes, eMusic, blogs, burns from friends, free downloads here and there, etc. As I've mentioned on these pages before, there is no way to even begin to listen to it, and I am thousands of songs beyond what I had then. It is impossible to even know what's on there. I only find out when I look for a song and it isn't. But I feel some weird kind of security knowing that I have it with me at all times, that at my fingertips is most anything I want to listen to, and that it will be there regardless of whether there is Internet access, Wifi, 3G, or even, for a good period of time, electrical power. Nope, it's stored and safe and always accessible (barring Ipod glitches, of course) like the supplies in a 1950's nuclear attack bomb shelter.

Of course, I've got a good bit of bit backed up on a portable hard drive.

And now, for some reason, even that record collection shrunk to a CD collection shrunk to a pocket-sized device feels obselete. Now, I'm allowing, nay wanting, other devices to compete for my attention. I've done everything I've already described to you with my Kindle, only this time in terms of books. I have classic books I'll never read, books I'm reading, books I want to read, books I've bought but probably won't read, books I've started and gotten distracted from (not a good sign) and even weird things like a cookbook I wrote a few years ago and have now converted to Kindle. Plus, though it has slow Internet, because it is 3G, I know I can access email almost anywhere, so I always feel connected.

And now, too, the Iphone, which, in my brief experience, has made the computer itself obselete for everything except word processing. Everything else can be accomplished with at least a decent level of convenience on the Iphone. Including the Ipod. Now, I'm looking at my old Ipod and my new Iphone and thinking, 'You know, Bob, all you really need is a trimmed down collection of songs that you can carry with you on your phone. Any thing else, if you need it, you can buy it with the push of a button.'

And so it goes. I may or may not be extreme, but I know I'm not alone. We want to have our worlds with us at all times, with access to everybody, every memory (at least through pictures), and everything we like to do. At least in some partial way, we want to be able to reach into our pockets and write, listen to, or display something that says, "This is my life. This is who I am."

Part of my hoarding comes from not ever wanting to be caught with nothing to do, but I have to admit that just sitting and thinking no longer seems to qualify as an acceptably pasttime, based on all of the preparations I've been making. What are those preparations for? Is it a day at the mall in a comfortable chair and any or all of my interests with me while my girls shop? Or is it a preparation for something more terrible, some awful event or some inevitable dance with loneliness? I don't really know, but I seem to want to be ready.

1 comment:

cinderkeys said...

One of your points illustrates why I prefer physical to digital hoarding. With shelves full of books and CDs, you have something to display for people. "Look at me! this is what I've read. This has contributed to my experience on this planet so far."

You can't do that so much with digital files. Or at least I can't. Maybe it's finally time to get a more sophisticated phone ...

Nah.