Late Than Never?

I just read through the article that was set for us to read several weeks ago, As We May Think, by Dr. Vannevar Bush.

I thought the article was quite interesting, especially as it showed what a visionary Bush was, and what he was able to suspect might be possible in the future. Especially his comments on the technology of photography, and about the possibility of, “dry photography”. As he suspected, “often it would be advantageous to be able to snap the camera and look at the picture immediately”. This is digital photography. And we must not forget that he wrote the article in July of 1945, close to 70 years ago.

Another part that I thought was important was his foresight to notice the possibility of information overload, and that the point would arrive where the content being created was greater than that which was possible to consume. He used the example of Mendel, whose discovery of the laws of genetics, which was lost for a generation as it was not read by the few people who could put his thought into practice and make the discovery public. This is now an even greater concern following the advent of the Internet. What if the key to curing the AIDS virus was stored away on a hard drive in a university somewhere, unread and unappreciated. The idea reminds me of this passage from a letter by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French author and aviator. (I also find it interesting that Bush published his article only 13 months after the premature death of Saint-Exupery. The fear of too much information was a common worry in those years.)

“I prefer the sale of a hundred copies of a book I don’t have to blush for to the sale of six million copies of a bad book. This is justified egoism, because the hundred copies will carry much greater weight than the six million ever could. The belief in number is one of the fallacies of the age. It is the most select journals that are the most illuminating; the ‘Discourse on Method’, even if it had no more than twenty-five readers in the seventeenth century, would nevertheless have changed the world. ‘Paris-Soir’ with its yearly tons of paper and it’s two million readers has never changed anything.”

Does anything we write have any weight anymore? Is what we are writing pushing the human race forward, or even having any positive or constructive influence on the world around us?

It is also the only ethic that worries me about this subject. The notion of being a content producer. For who is to say that I am only adding to the clutter and chaos of information on the internet by writing here? Does the fact that I can publish my own content mean that I necessarily should? What is really more valuable to be found here than in the angsty ramblings of a 13 year old girl with a Tumblr account? Who am I, really, to say anything?

Toy Stories

I stumbled across this article, when I was researching for the last post I did, and thought it was an incredible idea for a photographic project, and produced some incredible images.

It is titled, “Toy Stories“, by Italian photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, who spent 18 months traveling the world taking photographs of children with their favourite toys. As the article says, he spent some time playing with each of the children before helping them arrange their toys neatly on the ground, before taking several portraits of the child next to their toys.

His photograph’s reflected each different child’s world by illuminating their interests, personalities, families, cultures and wealth.

As Gamimberti discovered, there was some significant and obvious relationships between a child’s socioeconomic class and their personality.

“The wealthiest children were more possessive of their belongings, refusing to let Galimberti touch the toys at first. Building rapport with those kids took longer. The poorer children were much more receptive to Galimberti and were more generous with their fewer belongings. In the poorest countries, children often had very few toys, and therefore spent most of their time outdoors with friends.”

This project is special for several reasons, including that Gamimberti traveled so long and far to collect these photos, and that he was able to capture a snapshot of such a wide range of cultural and economic situations through such a simple vehicle. It reminds me of a quote by French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Galimberti chose the denominator common to all societies; children, and then picked a thing that is almost exclusively shared by this common denominator; toys. He gave us insight, not only into the world of the child, but the reality of the society that child was from, highlighting the different values favoured in different places around the world.

But mostly, this project is special because of the sense of nostalgia it creates in everyone who sees the photos, as they remember back to their own childhoods and cannot help but wonder what might have been in their portrait. It takes you back to all of those small pieces of plastic and metal that are either in landfill now, or are sitting in a box that collects dust in an attic or storage container somewhere. Those tokens, no, those idols, that you might have received as a Christmas present from an uncle, or your parent bought you one day after weeks of listening to your nagging, or that especially sacred first purchase with saved pocket money.

What was so special about them? Can you even remember now? Was it really that long ago?