I was watching an episode of Mad Men, Season 1 on Netflix the other day. Don Draper had returned to work. He opened his desk drawer, pulled out a file folder full of files, and opened up the file on his desk. Ahh, the elegance and simplicity of the 1960's.
You see, back in the 1960's (or anytime up until the the last ten years for most of us), in order to access certain information, you had to physically be at a location where the information was stored. Not only that, but information was precious in that it was unique. If you had a file full of information, and that file was lost or destroyed, or left out in the rain, that information was potentially gone. There was no backup.
Fast forward to 2012. It is rare to work with information that is uniquely physical. And by physical, I mean tangible information that you can hold in your hand; that if you were to send through a shredder, it would be, in all of its analog goodness, destroyed. Yeah, there are modern situations where information is quarantined, or only shared amongst a small group, but it is still usually one of many copies. Unless it's a hard copy... that is really old... from the 1960's.
And it's not just information in file folders that has been replaced with file folders on Dropbox or iCloud. It used to be that, in order to read a book, you had to get the book off of an actual bookshelf. The bookshelf could be in your house, or your library, or somewhere on the other side of the world. eBooks have changed that. And you had to carry the book around with you. Not to mention video games and movies that used to ship on tape or disc, and are now downloaded wherever you want them to be.
But while information availability has become almost ubiquitous, we are still using the same concepts: files in folders. We are putting digital data into molds that may or may not be the best, most usable fit for how we are actually using the data. And to our detriment, we have replaced a stack of ten file folders of project work with hundreds or thousands of files folders of work that we cannot easily browse through, and cannot efficiently make use of.
So while we no longer have to go into the office to have access to our files, it can be argued that we have no way of getting away from our files. They follow us everywhere, and we must fight the urge to open them up and start working... at home, during a meal, or at any point when we should be focusing on living, not working.
Maybe that is what makes art so special. Or architecture. Or nature. These are unique objects that require your physical presence in order to appreciate. And isn't that what we should be paying attention to? Objects that require our physical presence in order to appreciate.