Digital is Dangerous!
Is the digital age eroding our national right to queue? Chris Poolman and Keir Williams, creators of the Digital is Dangerous campaign, present their "political manifesto" explaining why the information revolution is not all it's cracked up to be.
Digital is Dangerous: Notes from the campaign trail:
"We D.I.D it, so can you"
Digital is Dangerous (D.I.D) is a recently-formed organisation committed to fighting the dangers of digital. During May, the Digital is Dangerous campaign was run from the temporary HQ of Jibbering Records in Moseley. Its remit was simple: to grant the record shop a voice in a digitally determined world and to emphasise how record shops act as sites of resistance against our increasingly digitally contracted environments.
The D.I.D manifesto was wide-ranging, relying on shock tactics, hollow rhetoric, sweeping promises and unsubstantiated overstatements. It couldn't be a political manifesto otherwise.
Bad Bad Images:
If you are in Somerfield in Moseley, glance at the photos on the wall behind the cigarette counter. You could be mistaken for thinking these images were mug shots of banned shop lifters. Only these images are not of criminals: they are of the manager and staff of the store. Once upon a time, these photos would have been professionally executed, now they have being done 'in house'. In the digital age everyone is a photographer.
There are too many digital cameras in the world. There are too many images. Bad images. Fuzzy images. Unnecessary images. D.I.D is proposing a ban on digital cameras until people learn to take decent photos.
In 1998, there were six billion images in the world, three billion were good images, three billion were bad. By 2008, 90 billion images were in circulation - 10 billion good, 80 billion bad. People haven't suddenly begun taking bad pictures. They were always bad. Digital democratisation has removed the quality filter. We have become awash with mediocre, bad images. Only a total ban on digital cameras will correct this problem of quantity over quality.
'If you're online shopping, it's friends you're dropping':
When your Granny tells you that people used to say hello to each other in the streets or the shop, it's probably because they did. These days we don't even bother going to the shops - they come to us.
D.I.D sees online shopping as symptomatic of a culture where everything is conducted via the magic glowing box - it even brings us food. We have handed over control of eating and drinking to a machine. Even when we go to the shops, our experience is digitally mediated.
D.I.D recently ventured into a Waitrose after disturbing reports came through of a new digital gadget. It allows you to scan your items as you wander around the supermarket, before swiftly paying at a machine upon completion.
Does this really facilitate a more sophisticated shopping experience or are the motives more sinister: a 'special offer' here, a 'great deal' there? More worryingly, it removes the basic civil liberty of queuing. What sort of country have we become if we relinquish queuing - our basic right and the foundation of our constitution? England is a nation of queuers, and we are a poorer, less irritable nation without it.
D.I.D recently purchased a cable from the Apple Shop. In this digital Mecca, the till and shop counter have been banished. Replacing it were "omni-everything" shop staff carrying swipe machines. D.I.D's insistence on paying in cash caused a few problems; they prefer people to pay by card.
Digital has become so democratising that the traditional shop structural division of shop floor and shop counter has being removed.
In Apple world, everyone is equal: shoppers and shop staff are all in the Mac gang together. Not having to queue removes a crucial stage in the shopping experience - the process of deliberation or 'should I really be buying this?' scenario.
Now, as soon as you show the first signs of weakness to the white gold, an overly attentive assistant pops up with a swipe card machine. Beware the Mac attack. The transaction is swift and cheerful. Paying is such a small part of the whole experience. Look at all those happy smiling faces around you.
D.I.D see the difficulty in paying in cash as exemplary of the digital money malaise.
The 'spend, spend, spend' culture and the consequent credit crunch, are the direct consequence of electronic banking and digitally rendered money.
Once it was only stockbrokers who dealt in virtual money, now we're all at it. We're no longer able to attach a value to money because we no longer physically handle it, Money is now abstracted into the security code on our swipe card and unnecessary transactions in our Amazon account. D.I.D say: Electronic Banking = Electronic Skanking. We want Cold Hard Cash.
I-pod You Little Sod!
D.I.D Manifesto Commitment Six: The temporary abolition of Ipods and compulsory introduction of Walkmans for every pupil at every school in the country (one tape allowed per day).
Why? Because people don't listen to music properly any more. We're living in the era of the single, where album masterpieces are decimated by the shuffle button on the Ipod.
The reintroduction of Walkmans will ensure this cultural black hole is corrected. Once upon a time teenagers would listen to Dark Side of the Moon on repeat for days, weeks, months at a time (years is not healthy). Albums meant something. They made you want to grow sideburns.
Now the intermittent shuffling of the Ipod is breeding a generation weaned on singles and individual downloads. Walkmans may be clumsy, basic and deeply unfashionable (except in Brighton) but they help to preserve the album as an art form. If you can't be bothered to listen to an album as it's meant to be listened to, then should you really be listening to it at all?
School Trips to Record Shops
The D.I.D manifesto outlined plans to grant record shops national heritage status as sites of historical and cultural significance.
This would be complimented by the implementation of school trips to record shops on a regular basis and Vinyl Studies introduced as a compulsory GCSE by 2012. The provisionary curriculum is as follows:
Key stage 33: Basic Vinyl Playing, Cartridge Care, Track Pattern Recognition.
Key Stage 45: Beat Matching, Dubplate Theory, Stylus Care, Quality Grading.
Key Stage 78: Vinyl History, Advanced Scratching, Dubplate Cutting, Cover Care, Making Picture Discs, Problems with Decks.
Vinyl is a physical entity that nurtures an intensely physical experience. In an education system where online P.E is an avatar's javelin throw away, D.I.D sees Vinyl Studies GCSE as fundamental to the collective health of our children's future.
At the Digital is Dangerous Debate, held in Jibbering Records in April, one of the speakers Robert Grose, introduced the term 'Analogue Flaneurism'.
The digital revolution has had an enormous impact on our social relations, particularly when it comes to the consumption of music. The drift and derive of going out record hunting, the physicality and arbitrariness that leads to chance encounters or unusual discoveries is lost when music is downloaded at home. Analogue Flaneurism is not to be confused with Flanagan and Allen (ism) (Grose: 2008).
Satellite Navigation = Lost Nation
D.I.D fervently believes that "sat navs" have paradoxically created a lost nation. We're proposing the ritualistic burning of all sat navs and a UK road map for every home in the country.
Getting lost is a worthwhile experience on two fronts:
1. Arguing over map directions is an indispensable part of the growth of any relationship. Without tests such as these, relationships will never have longevity.
It is no surprise that the growth in sat navs can be related to the increase in divorce rates. Arguments over map reading are the foundation of any successful relationship. If you can survive an argument over a B road in Dorridge, then you are meant to be together.
2. The percentage of people making "exciting unexpected discoveries" on car journeys was 70 per cent before sat navs. Now it's a miserly five per cent. Isn't it nice to get lost once in while and stumble across something unexpected? D.I.D SAY GET LOST.
D.I.D had been planning to make a rather special contribution to Birmingham's New Generation Arts Festival 2008.
Unfortunately, internal financial irregularity (online gambling; ebay after the pub) meant D.I.D couldn't afford to.
NGA 08 could have been effectively undermined and subverted with ÃÂ£100 on 5000 flyers and a little ingenuity.
These flyers would have being identical to the NGA flyer - with one adjustment: the ".co.uk" of the web address being replaced with ".com". The first and perhaps only point, of contact for many people would subsequently have been a rather odd Russian website. Digital is indeed dangerous.
D.I.D remind you to think twice about the all-empowering digital revolution: Google remembers everything; they are compiling the largest ever customer survey undertaken on our likes, dislikes and wants. Like lambs to the advertising slaughter we are openly telling them what we want, how we want it and why we want it. For free. And if that isn't disturbing enough, try this: over 80,000 video recorders are now living on the streets or in sheltered accommodation. By next year, approximately 25 million televisions will be homeless. Have a heart. Please.
The rise and fall of D.I.D can be viewed at its online home www.digitalisdangerous.co.uk. Unfortunately, the D.I.D revolution will not be televised, because television is going digital.
The Big Debate "Digital: More Power or Powerless?" will take place on June 9 at the ICC. Reserve your free tickets by logging onto www.thebigdebatebirmingham.co.uk.