How can things remain physical in a digital, virtual world?
We are, undoubtedly moving towards a world in which the everyday things that surround us are becoming more virtual and less physical. One can find apps for absolutely anything, replacing much that once occupied physical space in digital format. Things like photos, music, movies and letters are, no longer tangible ‘objects’, but rather a file somewhere, on some device.
But, the transformation from physical to digital doesn’t just stop there, at the comfortable level of objects we own- it is a plausible projection that, in the future, an entire brain may be scanned. Neurone by neurone, an entire digital map is created, theoretically also including memories, experiences, and thoughts. Essentially, any person can become a single file.
So where does that leave us as people? Does that mean we and the products we use will somehow be less relevant, a ‘waste of space’ and resources? How will we re-assert our
importance and significance in the world?
I ask myself these questions as a designer and someone who likes to speculate, and realized that some interesting concepts can arise.
If things like memories are just data, then is there not a need for a product to interact with, which can show us these, and make an experience out of it. Surely there is a more suitable way to cherish and treasure things like memories than just having them on a screen, on a device that is used for so many other trivial tasks.
Of coarse, we could just have a something like a smart contact lens that plays back
photos and experiences. I believe however, that we need to be careful about making products ever smaller and smarter- it is much easier and more ‘human’ to treasure a physical object- where design also affects the emotional connection we have with it.
Maybe the product could be a nice little case that opens up and projects holograms-
combining physical and digital aspects and being more substantial.
Either way, those were just my personal thoughts and predictions- which every
designer has. They are often not tangible, but nevertheless an interesting way to investigate and explore our options.