Content in the City

Various recent events have me pondering. At what point does the amount of digital content we have become a burden? In the age of “more”, when does “a lot”, become “too much”?

Why do I have Carrie Bradshaw’s voice in my head?

Leaving the exquisite Ms. Parker (or Mrs. Broderick if you prefer) to one side, for I’ll get back to her later, the topic of digital content is a current constant around these parts. Hell even the name of this blog hints at my general leanings in an age where content = information.

With the presumption that I’m already informationally overloaded, should I continue to consume and obtain, adding more and more digital content in the vague hope that some far off tipping point will be reached when, in the blink of an eye, a sticky idea will come along and all our digital woes will be answered. Apologies to Mr. Gladwell for that last sentence.

One of the problems we face is that it’s so (too?) easy to create digital content. Rip a CD and you’ll have MP3s or WMAs, take photos and you’ll have JPEGs and possible RAW files too, send emails and you’ll likely store a copy of your sent email in some format or another, type up and send a letter and you have a new document to store, and all of that is presuming you are only using your computer for ‘everyday life’ tasks. If your work requires a computer Id guess that you are creating, probably, mega-bytes of brand spanking new digital content every single day (although you might not store it all on your own computer).

But what’s the big problem? As the cost of storage continues to drop, it’s now relatively inexpensive to have at least a Terabyte of easily accessed disk space in your home. I currently have around 850GB of space, spread across three drives (one of which is an external drive used for backup only) none of which are even remotely close to being full, although that’s mainly because I’ve not yet resumed my on-going CD conversion project.

Yes, that’s right, I’m slowly converting ALL my CDs (around 650 at last count) to MP3. Yes I should probably be using a different format, and no I’m not even ripping at maximum bitrate. Yes, I’ve experimented with different bitrates, file formats and software packages but to MY ears via MY sound systems, beyond a certain point I can’t really tell the difference unless I listen really REALLY hard.

I am not an audiophile, I just love music.

No, those two statements are not a contradiction.

As such the file sizes I’m creating are probably around “average” for MP3s (4 to 5 MB per track).

In addition I’m also considering scanning in all our old photos, to JPEG probably, and yes I know I’ll lose some detail through compression. The scanning of old photos is very much an archive process though, so as long as I can make out the content of the image I’ll be quite happy. I do not need 10MB High resolution TIFFs for each photo, thankeweverymuch.

That’s all by the by of course, so let’s zip forward.

Storage is keeping apace with the rate at which we create digital content, so that’s not really a problem. No the real issues lie in how we access the content and how, as we increase the volume of what we store, we stand any chance of finding anything.

By the way, if you are expecting any answers, or a silver bullet of any kind then I’d stop reading. Presuming you’ve read this far (if so, well done!!).

In saying that, I do think there are two possible outcomes. Which, by virtue of the fact that I’ve stated there are two, means there will probably be three or four. But, for now, those two outcomes are that either:

  1. The volume of digital content exceeds the point where any form of search, index, taxonomy or folksonomy offers any solution. The sheer number of possible access points overwhelms our inferior brains, aliens invade, and the world as we know it ends.
  2. We stop creating digital content. The internet grinds to a halt, aliens invade, etc etc.

Either way, apparently, we are all doomed.

Not quite the outcome I expected to be honest, but such is life. Best get on and enjoy it while we still can.

Which brings me, in a completely uncontrived manner, back round to the delectable Ms. Sarah Jessica Parker. Well if you’re going to go…

Written By

Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

More From Author

You May Also Like

1 year at Allied

Reasons to work

Hotel Life


c. We rediscover the ‘Delete’ button and only keep the good stuff. We learn to select, to edit and to throw away (hey, we’re too good at that with material goods already) digital things. Oh, and the aliens stay where they are, scared off by the efficient humans.

The other day a song came on my mp3 player and I enjoyed it. It was La Isla Bonita by Madonna. When it was finished my mind expected it to segue into Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre, because I have a cassette taped off the radio what does this. I haven’t listened to that cassette in years, but because for a period of time it was one of relatively few in my collection, it was played a lot. I find that the more I acquire music, the less instinctive familiarity I have with it. Which has its ups-and-downs. But I do wonder in my relentless search for more more more, am I truly enjoying what I already have.

Well, I have to agree with Gert (and also Armin because the two are related!). When I put my music folder onto play all and shuffle there are times when it spits out a tune that i’ve no recollection of at all. Where did it come from? Why is it there? Do i even like it?
Just because we ‘can’ doesn’t mean we ‘should’.
Just because we have the ability for all this scrummy disk space and millions of mp3s etc, doesn’t mean we should entertain the notion of collecting everything.
Armin’s theory of only keeping what we really want/need is probably the way round it.
And as well as what Gert was saying, I have also noticed how before mp3’s I would learn new songs and lyrics off by heart because i loved them and they were repeat played. Now i rarely know lyrics. Too many, too little plays.

Comments are closed.