BBC Radio 4: Digital Human (Series 6:2014: Episode 4: Nostalgia) #DigiHuman

BBC Radio 4: Digital Human (Series 6:2014: Episode 4: Nostalgia) #DigiHuman


4/6: Nostalgia

We live in a world where the nostalgia for the past now permeates our present.

With online trends like ‘Throw Back Thursdays’, apps like Timehop and platforms which gives you the tools to make your digital image look like it was taken with an analogue camera, the internet has never seemed so backwards-facing.

In this week’s episode of The Digital Human, Aleks Krotoski visits imagined worlds and eras long past to explore whether the web is a nostalgia machine.

We speak with Professor of Svetlana Boym to trace the origins of the word back to homesick Swiss mercenaries in the 17th century, visit a water park in New Jersey which was reborn through the collective power of online nostalgia and take tea with a vintage enthusiast, who divides his time between working as an air host in a high-flying company, with living in the 1940s.

  • Disposableness of so much modern technology, but the (perceived) lasting nature of old technologies.
  • Nostalgia part of every-day life, in packaging, the hand-made, we make do and made, and nostalgia is so easy to access online, including pop-culture moments on Youtube, remixed tunes on Spotify, watch films that are remakes of originals on Netflix. Shaped to fill the sense we’ve lost something – is the Internet a nostalgia machine, and is it trapping us in a digital past?
  • Nostalgia is a longing for something that no longer exists, or indeed, may never have existed. People draw comfort from the past, because the future is unknown?
  • A feeling of nostalgia helps us part with our cash more easily (so a Vaseline tinted lens). Look and feel of technologies/apps – qualities of a past aesthetic gives a vision of the future. No one gets the grandeur of what you’re actually seeing, but an Instagram filter, etc. can give a sense of the emotion raised.
  • Online, so much of what exists has so little tangibility.
  • Music is tied up with so many things – and can definitely take you back to a moment.
  • E-book reader – re-creates the look of a book as how people accustomed to read.
  • Utopian nature of language used in ‘the web’ – nostalgia for somewhere with a ‘home’, etc. Nostalgia is built into the infrastructure.
  • The internet savvy generation can access nostalgia at any point – not having to wait for time to chill around a table with wine… can use the internet to create shared nostalgic experiences (in this case the world’s most dangerous water park). Lots of people had something to say to this.
  • When someone in 1940s house, someone who lived through that time visited and wondered why would choose to live that way…
  • The web has made nostalgia ‘nimble’ – can find things and make them present – including cherry picking aspects of your life and choosing how it looks…
  • There’s something more ‘wizard of Oz’ going on online… e.g. Spotify – understand what links to what … allows them to choose more ‘recommendations’ to present to the user. Personal data is not just used to sell us data, but to make us nostalgic. Invisible code in the software – can work out what is popular amongst your friends in their network.
  • Nostalgia = critical importance if take from that past experience to apply to the presence. We need a sense of ‘slower time’ – if only experience of presence is technological – are you really experiencing presence?
  • TimeHop and Throwback Thursdays = overt examples – difference between enjoying elements of the past, and getting stuck in a nostalgic loop, because the software is pre-empting your choices.

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