Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Closing the covers

Helsinki, 1 degrees.

It is ironic how new technology can sometimes make you feel old at age 24. As you all can guess, at my work, I deal quite a lot also with technology since our customers often come in with technology’s newest toys asking for assistance. After all, we have customers from all over the world. Some of you might think that people from the ends of the world wouldn’t end up in Helsinki, but I can assure you that they do seeing as I personally have assisted customers from the world’s all continents. Funnily enough the customers seem to think that we here in Helsinki are suited to assist them in any kind of problem, also technological ones.

I will never forget when I saw for the first time in my life an Ipad. Of course it belonged to one of our Asian customers who thought it was the most common thing in the world when she handed it to me so that I would find her the right wireless internet connection in our office. I must say, at first, I didn’t even dare to touch the thing! But as I found myself in the line of business I do, I couldn’t show my uncertainty so I helped the customer and managed to get myself out of the situation one experience richer. I feel like that in many situations concerning technology: learning by doing and trying my way through.

Nowadays technology makes me sad in a way though. It’s not a question of answered needs. It’s a question of companies inventing our needs for us. Most of my friends that get new computers or mobile phones cannot even tell me why they bought them, in a sense they just wanted to stay surfing on the technological wave that’s passing us by right now. And who says it’s just passing us by? Maybe it’s here to stay. Maybe years from now, we won’t know why we have most of the things we do. We won’t feel a need to explain purchases anymore. I find myself worried in a world where we speak of design as something worth putting money on since it stands for quality. Nevertheless, these so called design items are exchanged every second year or even more often. What kind of quality is that then? And if we’re not buying the stuff because of durability, why are we then calling the items design? I make comparisons to design interior items that last and are inherited by one generation from another. Aren’t these the items we here in Helsinki call design- the kind of design for which we were elected the design capital in 2012?

I understand that technology is going forward in a much faster way now than years ago, but still, I’ve noticed how people tend to forget to be honest to themselves and explain at least to themselves why they are purchasing new technological items. Some time ago, one of my friends told me that in the States, Nokia’s mobile phones are considered “old school”, a plast from the past of something like that. She actually told me that Americans found it cute that she had a Nokia as they all have mobile phones of rivalries of the brand. As far as I have understood, this has to do with the increased smartphone popularity in the world where Nokia has lost its leading role. I just think it’s kind of a paradox that one get s a phone that works also as a computer, but then one also needs a computer that works as a computer. Hmm..

It’s also incongruous how it all started from mp3 players. First we had them, then the same company who came up with them, decided to combine them with phones so that today mp3 players are old-fashioned and unnecessary…hmm…

I understand that persons in leading positions need work phones that have access to their email accounts as well. What I don’t understand is why teenagers or even young adults like me need it? Don’t we spend enough time on computers already? Do we need one in our pocket as well? And let’s not forget the prices of these items. There not exactly cheap. Are we getting blind to things out of our reach? Is nothing impossible anymore? Do we dare to dream about having such thing or is it something we immediately have to have?

One of my friends told me that one of the reasons why he got a smartphone was that when he travels he doesn’t need to buy a tourist book in advance about the place since his smartphone tells him where he is and what the buildings are in whatever place he finds himself in in the world. Does that mean that the idea with tourist books was originally just that we should know where we are, or that we would learn something about the places we visit before we arrive at the place?

I’m the kind of person that hopes, sincerely hopes, that new developments should always take us further, not take us back in time. Smartphones should be used in the sense that they would make us more active and not less active. They should inspire us to look into things deeper since information is easier to get. I witness the increasing trend of lazy travelling every day at my office. Of course, there are still persons that are well prepared before they travel but increasingly more persons that just rely on local hospitality to show them what to do.

I mean, last Saturday when we had a religious holiday here in Helsinki, all Saint’s day, the tourists were chocked. They didn’t want to believe that the shops weren’t open. Some people came from far away but others from our neighboring countries, and they hadn’t even checked if there would be a holiday before they came. And the most ironic part was that they thought it was silly that we had a holiday like this. Aren’t holidays the last remains of our cultural identity? Shouldn’t holidays be something that visitors should appreciate more than shopping? Just a thought.

I love reading. I seldom have the time I would want to read in peace without thinking about other things I have to do. Lately, I’ve used my lunch breaks at work as reading time and it has worked surprisingly well. What I love about books is not only the experience of reading written words, but the fact that the whole reading situation is an experience. With the actual book in my hand, I can understand the work load the writer has put into the making of the book. The contents of the book also changes with time, and the same person can read a book at several occasions in his/her life and get different things out of it. I also like the fact that a book is a companion that you can take with you for lunch or a cup of coffee and it will keep you company.

Said all of this, I was surprised when one of my friends told me that lately the trend is going towards e-book readers. I guess I shouldn’t criticize something I haven’t tried yet, but I find it difficult to comprehend that an e-book reader to offer you the same kind of reading experience as an old fashioned book. I remember the time when what one read told about whom one was. Now if you can’t see what one reads, one stays more hidden, right? How about the smell of a book? The sensation of feeling a book’s cover with your hands? Just today I read that the e-book sales have gone up to over 700 million euros in the States this year. Forrester Research predicts that it will triple until year 2015, in just five years. At the same time the book fair in Helsinki had a record amount of visitors this year- 80 000 during four days. Are we the last traditional book readers?

I guess we can say so long, tata, to mp3 players, regular mobile phones, and yes, even old time books.

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