Dematerializing Our Digital Needs - A Cultural Perspective


"Mission creep" in the design of portable electronic devices has ushered in an an era of resource consumption polarity. For personal-scale electronics; less is truly becoming more in so many ways.

For television, however, the opposite seems true. Starting in the 1950's, televisions have stayed on a trend line toward bigger and heavier. Perhaps the most egregious trend in this regard is for the construction of Mega-home theaters with real theater chairs, and an internal broadcasting system to flat screens in all the major rooms, supplanting the wall spaces that portrait paintings held in the colonial and Victorian eras. Television is the fattening buffalo in the room - too big to stand on his own any longer - that must be mounted on the wall.

For the visionary designer, there is hope that these polar opposite consumption cases can converge, to where average annual per capita material consumption attributable to electronic devices decreases greatly from where it is today. See our examples and discussion below the fold.Wrist watches as antiques:
My last watch, likely a present from an older relative, sits in a drawer mostly unused, held for those rare trips to a wilderness area where there's no reliable cell phone coverage. My phone is my watch: never needs to be reset; always on the right time; handles the time zones automatically, even. (Just surprised that Rolex hasn't partnered with a major cell phone maker to share brand building.) Oops..they already have.

Attention Rolex shoppers: LG was demonstrating its concept mobile phones to a few select journalists in Asia, and according to Tech Digest, one of the handsets was

"basically a phone with a Rolex watch face embedded in the casing. Rolex buffs would certainly approve—the phone had a luxurious leathery exterior, and looked reassuringly expensive."

Everywhere I go, I see people looking at their phone to check the time. Wrist watches dematerializing__check.

CDs, CD Players, and CD-Holders
Who carries a pile of CD's in the car any more? iPOD's and satellite radio vaporized them. If you buy the tunes on line or have music sent to your cell phone via The Music Genome Project (Pandora Radio), auto music-clutter just goes away. Hard spun music media de-materializing__check.

Sales of standalone PDA's have fallen drastically of late. Operating systems for PDA functionality have been subsumed into the so-called "smart phones". PDAs disappearing from the display cases at office supply stores__check.

Travel Alarms
Cell phones and smart phones often have built in alarms. Young people as a group seem more aware of and use the function than do older persons. Travel alarms dematerializing__check.

We've previously noted the shift in PC sales from desktop to laptop, with laptop sales on a course of sure domination. Less mass in computing__check.

Now for the vaunted TV challenge. How to demassify this beast, which surely exists in numbers more than the herds of Bison that once ranged the US Great Plains, and which seems headed toward challenging them on a weight basis! Whispering in our ear is the OLED TV. More about this animal in a future post.

Image credit::Natural Resources Canada, Photo Contest, American Bison.

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