The impermanence of the digital realm

- in In English, Krönikor, Kulturkrönika

If it is only online, does it even exist? Lundagård’s culture columnist Ondrej Gomola reflects on the abstract existence of what we do in the ’cloud’. 

Something that often strikes me is just how much the everyday life of humans has changed over the last century. One hundred years ago, the world was reeling from the horrors of the First World War and contemporarily ubiquitous things like electricity were not at all widespread, especially outside a select few countries in Western Europe.

Now, though, we take electricity and other everyday comforts our society is built upon for granted, and instead spend our time staring at variform displays. These screens are supposedly meant to “help people connect, find communities and grow businesses”, but I find that what they mostly connect us to is our power sockets at home. 

As a student of the social ‘sciences’, most of my time is spent looking at various texts online or on my laptop. Almost everything I’ve done for my degree is stored in the cloud. If Microsoft and Google would spontaneously combust tomorrow, most of my academic work would disappear. But at least we have Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchildren, which when out of action leave us utterly lost and bewildered. Remember when Facebook’s services went down? But imagine if Facebook disappeared. Imagine what would happen to the very fabric of Swedish society! Swedes would have to talk to each other!

All jokes aside, it is worth reflecting on how much of our private and professional lives in the digital ether. All those essays, all those hours of work, gone. Not even in a puff of smoke! Just gone. In an instant, wiped off the face of the Earth. But they were never really on the face of the Earth, were they? 

Before the dotcom boom, many things were done by hand. Drawings, calculations, letters (remember those?), all products of pens and pencils. Now, my goal is not to be a whinging conservative. I agree that digitalization is brilliant. I can call my family back home without taking the horse and cart for a three-month trip; yes, humanity has progressed considerably. But it is worth the trouble to write your pet, friend, or loved one a hand-written letter. Or learning a new handicraft. Or playing an instrument. Guitar Hero and Synthesia go a long way, but it’s not quite the same.