Tag Archives: anthropology

Technology: The Barrier?

Technology continues to become part of our lives, and it’s inevitable that we find a push against it. Just as Henry David Thoreau set out into the woods to practice Transcendentalism–named so, literally for the idea of transcending the impact of the industrial revolution and returning humanity back to a state of nature–we found ourselves facing a similar conflict.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s a marvel that I can send an email halfway around the world in a single click–especially when there was a time one would have to wait weeks, if not months, for the same correspondence. And let’s not forget the fact that you can read this post from wherever you are in the world right now. We owe a lot to the power of our technological age. So why the resistance?

Ph.D. of Anthropology, Grant McCracken, explains his understanding of the recent fondness for low-fidelity products. In his post, McCracken posits three reasons. One is simply our own nostalgia. We always miss what we used to have, even if it’s been improved. We always look back on the past as “simpler times,” while growing aggravated with the advancements which obscure that cherished, rose-colored view. The second “is a wish for groundedness.” McCracken suggests that the world has become too shiny and seamless, and, as a result, has lost its aesthetic of authenticity. In other words: we like the imperfections, because everything has become too damn perfect. The third reason suggests that lo-fi products reflect the way we view our world now–the idea that technology has made our world simpler, and, at the same time, way more complex, distracting and fragmented than we ever bargained.

Even the people my age–the ones called “Digital Natives” for having grown up with all this technology–find comfort in the idea of disposable cameras in the face of accessible, professional grade quality. And that’s what makes Pilot’s newest website a brilliant piece of work.

You can view the video below for an explanation, but the hook is this: our words have lost their personal touch since switching to these “modern typewriters” we call computers. Nowadays, we all communicate in the same crisp, clean digital fonts, and Pilot has created the means for anyone to bring their handwriting to the computer.

Intentional or not, Pilot has tapped into the Lo-Fi trend by speaking directly to the issue, blurring the line between our own handwriting and the technology that has obscured it. What a great way to draw people back to the idea of writing by hand, and creating something share-worthy under the banner of your pen brand. And, while handwritten fonts are nothing new, the ease of use this application provides is something certainly novel.

My only complaint with the concept is that it does not allow the user to download the font permanently to their computer. Rather, you’re limited within the confines of the site to use the font. This is a bit short-sighted on Pilot’s end. One would expect a major drop off after the first use if it requires signing in every time you want your font.

Had these restrictions been removed and allowed users to propagate, Pilot might have seen an increase of people using their handwritten fonts on blogs, in email exchanges and even in printed mail. Instead this great idea is held back by its own self-imposed constraints. Still, much credit to the planners behind this one. The method and the message are dead on.

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