Obliteration Findings

The original objective of this Object Obliteration journey was to eliminate some of the physical mementos and letters that I have, and to store them in more effective containers in less space. In the event, I destroyed relatively few physical items – just 88 or 12% of the total 710; but do now have much more satisfactory containers, though unfortunately taking up slightly more space than before.

The most prominent reasons for keeping items were that they were reminders of people or events special to me, and a desire to have particular items visible and easily accessible to peruse at my leisure. Underlying these reasons seems to be a feeling that a physical folder makes its presence known to you every time you notice it, and that the items within it are somehow a limited number of special objects which are there to be looked at. Having the items in the physical folder means that they won’t be forgotten. A set of digital files, however, is essentially invisible, and you have to make an effort to go and look for it. Furthermore, it doesn’t feel like a self-contained entity with a specific set of contents that you are perusing – just an indefinite series of very similar entities on a single flat screen. In summary, I think I was keeping the things I would definitely want to look at again, in the knowledge that they would be placed in a physical folder which would mean I wouldn’t forget them and could get at the whole set easily and quickly without having to do any searching.

The other prominent reason for keeping items was that they, in some way, told a significant story about me, my work and my life. I wanted to be able to revisit that material, and/or for others to be able to have easy access to that material after I am gone. Having said that, I was under no illusions that most of the mementos and all of the letters are of little or no interest to anyone but myself, so any thoughts of others looking at the material at any time and be interested by it, was really just wishful thinking which, nevertheless, did influence my choices.

Two interesting observations emerged from the exercise. First, as I moved the mementos into their new, more ordered homes, I began to think they would benefit from some kind of index, or even a summary of their contents. I wondered if this is a generic phenomenon: that, as things become more orderly and are housed in more prestigious containers and spaces, so the urge rises in us humans to provide guides to, and information about, the material.

Second, two different sets of material gave me cause to think they would be easier to access and read digitally than in their original physical forms. These were a set of 8 pocket diaries, and a whole series of greetings cards. Both types of material are a little more difficult to store than a plain page of paper; and access to both can involve more than a quick look at a single image (an obvious point for the multi-page diaries, but it also applies to larger cards which have to be stored in their folded state). Since, I have a digital copy of every item, whether it is retained in physical form or not, this realisation simply impacts how I access the material: the decision to keep or destroy such physical objects will usually be dictated by other rationales as illustrated by the variety of reasons for Keeping and Destroying recorded in this journey.

For both Mementos and Letters the overriding reasons I recorded for destroying items was that they were of no special interest or significance (69% of the reasons given), and they concerned someone who I only vaguely knew or have lost touch with (12%). However, it’s clear from my notes that, for those 88 items I did destroy, it wasn’t such a traumatic decision. I knew that the contents would still be intact and available in a digital copy even if the physical missive was not, and this made it easier to destroy the physical item. In the face of this unarguable fact, I didn’t feel that I had fully obliterated any of those items. They still lived on, even if in other forms. This realisation prompted me to dig a little deeper into what would constitute total obliteration from the human perspective; and, my musings led me to think about three different components of this phenomenon: a physical item, a digital copy, and the memory we have of the item in our minds. Perhaps, I thought, true obliteration requires that all three be destroyed so that the human observer no longer has any perception of the object, and the object makes no impact on the human.

Further exploration of these three types of object – physical, digital, and memory – throws up some interesting observations.

  • Originals and copies: Each of the three types of object can be an original object or a copy. Physical objects are easy to think of as originals; and they can be copied by artisans, by a 3-D printer, or in a manufacturing process. Digital objects are created in files, which can then be copied or printed out. Any thought can first be created in someone’s mind (the original memory object), and then be written down (the copy). Examples of original memory objects might be things like an idea for a painting or a storyline for a book; and the resulting painting or book could be considered to be copies of those memory objects (though uncertainty about how exact the copies are is a considerable complication).
  • Adjustability: Physical objects would seem to be less easy to adjust than digital objects; while memory objects seem to be much more fluid and may not only be adjusted by circumstances or time, but also be embellished by related items or events. Furthermore, I know from my own experiences, that memories of objects, at any given time, may or may not be incomplete, inexact or sometimes, just plain wrong.
  • Transitions: an original object of any one of the three types can be transitioned into a copy in one of the other types. For example, a digital photo can be taken of a physical original; a digital file can be copied into a physical book; and an idea in someone’s memory can become a digital PowerPoint slide. However, such transitions always incur both the gaining and the loss of some characteristics. For example, in the transition of a physical object to a digital copy texture is lost and code is gained; and from digital to memory (as when looking at a digital photo) the ability to expand is lost, and the memory of it is embellished by the place in which you saw it.
  • Transmission: From the human perspective, memory enables the transmission of information and knowledge within an individual from one day to the next; from one year to the next; and from one part of life to another part of life. The transition of memory to verbal, written, or other form (either physical of digital) enables the transmission of memory from one human to another within a lifetime, and across lifetimes.
  • Obliteration of originals: If an original is obliterated (say, a physical object is destroyed, or a digital object is deleted, or a memory object is completely forgotten) the object may still be available to be perceived in a physical or digital copy, either within the originator’s lifetime, or sometime in the future.
  • Actions on object types: An interesting way of comparing the characteristics of such objects is to look at whether humans can carry out various actions on them. The table below examines the following actions: Perceive, Describe, Adjust, Combine, Transmit, and Destroy.
Perceive Describe Adjust Combine Transmit Destroy
Physical Yes Yes Maybe Maybe Yes Yes
Digital Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Memory Yes Yes Not explicitly Not explicitly Only by transitioning No
  • IT Impact: IT has introduced a massive number of new original and copy objects, and made the transition and transmission of memory objects and physical objects much, much easier. In addition to introducing all these completely new objects, IT has also had an impact on physical and memory objects as summarised in the table below.
Perceive Describe Adjust Combine Transmit Destroy
Physical original Computer imaging and magnification enables greater detail to be seen No impact By physical machinery controlled by IT By physical machinery controlled by IT By computer managed transport No impact
Physical copy Computer imaging and magnification enables greater detail to be seen No impact By physical machinery controlled by IT By physical machinery controlled by IT By computer managed transport No impact
Memory original No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact No impact
Memory copy No impact No impact No impact No impact Digital files/email enable thoughts to be stored and sent Digital material can be deleted
  • Other questions: A number of obvious questions might be asked after considering the above material. For example: Are Physical, Digital, and Memory objects actually objects in their own right regardless of whether they are originals or copies? Does being an original confer greater authenticity? Is a digital object containing a part of a digital original, a copy of that original?

Having toyed with all these thoughts, I returned to my original notion that true obliteration requires that all three representations of an object (physical, virtual and memory) – be destroyed; and I’m inclined to think that is the truest position to take. After all, if I have memory of an object and can talk about it and write about it, the object is clearly still having an impact on me; and, to my mind, it is ‘impact’ that obliteration is intended to eliminate. Unfortunately, memories are not either there or not there – they get forgotten, become less precise, and get recalled as fragments – so this isn’t a very precise or useful notion. The only thing we can be sure of is that an individual’s memory of an item is destroyed when the individual dies (at least, that is currently the case). So perhaps it’s best to leave human memory on one side, and to just focus on physical and digital originals and copies. These, at least, can be perceived and assessed with a degree of certainty. My conclusion from this narrowed perspective, is that obliteration involves the destruction of all physical and digital originals and copies. This would exclude mere references to an object in a document or a verbal description of an object by an individual – though it would also have to entail the destruction of an object (such as a photo) which is included within a larger object. I’m not too sure if this is a useful conclusion, or that these deliberations have been worthwhile; but at least the question about what object obliteration means in the digital age, hasn’t been left unexplored.

Pragmatic Container and Space Considerations

The 4-Ring binders and plastic wallets that I bought on the net, have turned out to be just fine for my purposes. Although relatively cheap they are sturdy and capacious, and I have eventually ended up with most of my entire collection of letters in three such binders, one of which has a good deal of spare capacity for future additions from my wife and children (such future additions likely to consist mainly of birthday, christmas, father’s day, anniversary, and valentine’s day cards). I anticipate making very few additions to my collection of missives from other people given the general demise of letter writing in the face of widespread use of email, text messaging and, more recently, video calls.

I ended up retaining all of the 79 airmails dated between 1967 and 1974 from my mother and father, rather than a subset as I originally envisaged, for two reasons: first, it would have been a very exacting job to pick out particular ones to keep; and, second, I was putting them into a smaller ring binder of their own (which I had retrieved from the loft) and found that they all neatly fitted into it, so there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to weed out some of them: pragmatic container and space considerations can often tip the balance in such decisions.

Overall, I retained 392 of the 453 physical items; the 61 items I destroyed only being some 16% of the total – rather less of the draconian clear-out that I envisaged. This despite having a digital copy of each and every missive. However, at least my objective of replacing seven or eight floppy containers which didn’t stand up on their own, with just 4 sturdy ring binders (as shown in the picture below) has been achieved.

More intimate but humbler things

Despite thinking I would be more prepared to destroy physical letters than physical mementos, this has proved not to be the case. I haven’t got the numbers yet, because I’m going to make some final decisions when I put the letters into the folders I’ve ordered. However, perhaps the numbers aren’t important, because, as I went through all the material, I came to realise that it was the very personal nature of these artefacts that was making the difference. Generally speaking they generate a much greater feeling of intimacy than most of the mementos I was looking at earlier in this study.  These letters are things I become immersed in and that I’m drawn into, to wallow in the words that speak directly from the individuals concerned and in the backdrop of shared experiences and emotions that the sentences create in my mind. Consequently, I’ve concluded that anything I retain will just be for me. They are of no interest or value to anyone else, and will almost certainly be destroyed after I’ve gone. Apart from my own gratification, the only other consideration is whether I have the space to accommodate them. Hence my decision to delay selecting items from the airmails from my mother and father, and from the cards from my wife, until the folders arrive and I see how much space all these missives are taking up.

There is one salient point that occurred to me as I was thinking about the large numbers of Xmas, Valentine, Birthday and Anniversary cards I have from my wife. These are rather more bulky and with less writing on them than an ordinary discursive letter, and, as such, may be a lot easier to just flick through on an iPad. This is perhaps the first time that I’ve been inclined to think that an iPad experience may be better than looking at the real thing in a plastic wallet, and so I may dwell on that thought for a while. It might be interesting to replicate the folder collection I end up with, on the iPad; and then to actually try looking through both. One thing’s for sure, as noted many times in this blog, the iPad version will be a lot easier to store, look after and access than a great big 4 ring binder.

As for the physical storage I have ordered, I deliberated long and hard about what to get. The easy decision would have been to replicate what I bought for the Mementos – smart looking leather covered 4D ring binders with special acid free plastic wallets with various numbers of pockets on each page. However, I calculated this would cost me upwards of £150, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that much on things that I had now realised were to be purely for my own benefit. I then looked at more substantial wallet folders with 100 or more integral plastic pockets, but concluded that I did need a loose leaf system to enable me to add new material to a group of letters from a particular individual. So, I finally ended up choosing two plain white 4D ring binders with large, 9cm, spine widths for £4.07 each; and 300 55micron plastic wallets for £7.97. The major expenditure was £22.50 for 50 2-pocket plastic wallets (these I used before for some of the Mementos). Without inspecting them in the flesh, I’m not totally confident the binders and 55 micron wallets will be suitable – but I’m crossing my fingers. This experience has highlighted my different attitudes towards the two sets of material: the Mementos are all indexed and numbered, and somehow I seem to imagine they might be of interest to others in the long term; so they were given VIP treatment in luxury leather binders and acid-free plastic wallets. The Letters, however are not indexed, and are just for me, and so are being provided with bog-standard, cheap, binders and plastic wallets which may or may not be loaded with acid. I await their arrival with interest to see if my internet punt has paid off.

Musings before starting on the Letters

My initial thoughts before starting on the second, letter, phase of this journey, are that I am much more interested in preserving the content of letters than the physical artefact. Perhaps this is partly because most letters are manifested on very similar, relatively uninteresting, physical objects – sheets of paper. Of course, when a missive is transmitted in an unusual physical format, such as a rolled-up scroll for example, then I know that that did influence my keep/destroy decisions in the first pass I made through my letters 6 years ago. However, generally speaking I think I’m quite happy just to be able to access the contents of most old letters electronically.

Of course, letters and cards from people I am particularly emotionally attached to – such as those from my wife and children – are a different kettle of fish. I have a feeling they are the items that are going to present the biggest challenge as I try to slim down my collection of physical letters. On looking at what I’d written about my earlier experience of digitising my missives and disposing of many of the hardcopy versions, I see that I retained just over 400 letters and cards out of an initial total of about 1900; and that 131 of these were from my wife, 85 were early letters from my parents when they were in Singapore and I was at boarding school, and 31 were from my children. I see that I also identified the following four reasons for not keeping the items I disposed of. They were: embarrassing content, embarrassing event, not interesting or special enough to keep, and won’t fit into storage container. I wonder if any of those reasons will come up in the exercise I’m about to embark upon – if I manage to dispose of any items at all.

Interim debrief: mementos

The uncertainty and confusion reflected in my previous post were dampened down a little as I finished assessing each item to decide if it should live or die, and started to move those items earmarked for survival into their new binders and boxes (more of those later). To remind you, the main driving factors in this exercise are the need to make space; and the need to move the retained objects into loose leaf storage containers that won’t fall over. This first stage has been looking at mementos; the second stage, which I shall start once I’ve finished this interim debrief, will be looking at letters, cards and other such missives.

I started out by building a spreadsheet to record my thinking, and developed it over the first few objects I looked at. It ended up with some 22 headings intended to fully document my reasoning about why an object was being kept or obliterated. The first objects I considered were two prayer books and a hymn book which were with me through eight years of boarding school. I’m no longer a church goer, but these books and I have history; so, it was a good test to get stuck into the process. I ended up choosing to destroy the three volumes, and the spreadsheet suggests that I did so primarily because a) I had no use for them, and b) they were dirty and torn. How did I feel afterwards? The spreadsheet records ‘Should have done this long ago’.

With this positive start in my drive to make space, I embarked with some confidence upon assessing the 285 Ref Nos with physical items in my Memento collection (the other Ref Nos exist only in digital format). The first thing I did was to go through the index and identify those items that I definitely wouldn’t get rid of and designated them ‘Not a candidate’. I reasoned that there was no point in going through a time-consuming analysis process if obliteration just wasn’t on the menu. This eliminated 140 of the 285 items. Next, I identified those items that were not stored in the plastic wallets or presentation folders in my study cupboard. There were 28 of these stored in various places such as the loft, display cabinet, bookcases, chest, and frames on the wall (our lives are rarely straightforward….). I then used the spreadsheet headings to analyse the remainder; but the result was disappointing – I ended up by only destroying 27 items – about 10% – a meagre amount compared to the 41% of original items that were excluded from the collection in the first place when it was being assembled; and the 69% of those that were included in the collection, being destroyed and retained only in their digital form. Given that perspective, my latest attempt eliminated relatively few; but perhaps it simply underlines that the previous sorting had truly separated out the items I really wanted to keep? After all, it wasn’t as though I had breezed through the exercise. I had had to think hard about each object, and, as the exercise went on, I found it harder and harder to understand why I was keeping things – but, for the most part, keep is what I decided to do. In the end, I came back to the obvious conclusion that these were my objects and therefore I could decide to do whatever I wanted with them. Other considerations such as what would happen to them after I’ve gone, or whether the family or, indeed, the world, would have an interest in them, were peripheral.

Interestingly, there were 12 items which, despite either being initially categorised as ‘Not a Candidate’ or which the analysis process had designated as ‘Reviewed and retained’, were eventually obliterated in the final stage of moving them to the new containers.Eight of them were pocket diaries which one would have thought would have been prime candidates for keeping; but, no, I realised that they are far easier to access and read on the screen, and they are highly inconvenient shapes to store in quantity. They went.

The other four items were two long newspapers articles, a spoof issue of The Times, and a self-help booklet on managing one’s time – all of  which I eventually concluded I would never, ever, read again.This whole experience seems to suggest that, while there is a bedrock of basic criteria and feelings that apply when an individual is deciding to keep or obliterate, it is, nevertheless, always a little pliable around the edges.

One other observation came through strongly in this exercise: the decision to obliterate is much easier to take if a scan of the object already exists. I had already scanned every item when I organised the collection in 2014, so there was no work to do in any of these obliterations: the object still lived on in the digital world whatever I did to it in the physical realm (as testified by the above pictures).

Regarding the act of obliteration, I discovered that my primary concern was to ensure that, when it was in the recycling bin, it was clear that it was done with: I wouldn’t have wanted the opportunity to reconstitute it myself, nor for anyone else to think it was still current. This was usually achieved by tearing the paper into four or eight pieces. I had no desire to completely obliterate it (that would have taken far too much effort): I just wanted to put it into an ‘out of action’ state. I suppose objects do get reconstituted after being merely damaged – but not the material I was obliterating. The few tears did the job. Those items will never be the same again.

Perhaps one of the most interesting observations from this exercise was that, as I moved the collection into its new binders and boxes, I perceived it becoming much more organised and accessible, and, concurrently, worthy of a comprehensive index – perhaps with an accompanying precis of the events represented by the collection’s objects. The leather ring binders and the accompanying plastic wallets of varying configurations (single pocket, 2 pocket, 3 pocket, 4 pocket, 8 pocket etc.) all came from a company called Family Tree Folk. The binders are good looking and spacious and will make it easy to look through the thinner material housed in the plastic folders. I also acquired a sturdy clamshell box from the same organisation. Together with a couple of box files that I already had (the Butterfly and Around the World boxes in the picture below), these containers house the thicker material such as booklets, magazines, phone directories etc..

The box containers are so much better than the plastic wallets that flopped about on the bookcase shelves, and provide much easier access to their contents. However, inevitably it’s the leather binders that will get flicked through, and the boxes will remain opaque repositories of hidden objects. I mused about how references to those objects could be included amongst the leather binder pages, and then realised that this was really just a sub-plot to the bigger problem that all this stuff is tucked away and rarely looked at. I should really apply my own OFC mantra – to use and exploit the objects that one keeps. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet – but the whole question of bringing this material to life is certainly on my mind.

Going back to my original objective of freeing up some bookshelf space, I think that’s a bit of a lost cause. I have undoubtedly thinned the collection down a bit – but the improved containers have taken up a lot of that extra space. However, I’m going to have to live with that as I don’t fancy going through yet another painstaking analysis and selection process. Perhaps the letters which I’m going to tackle next will be a more fruitful culling field.

It has to be just as I see it

I feel I must write about where I’m up to because there’d be a huge gap in the story if I didn’t. My main motivation for trying to reduce the number of my physical mementos was to make space; but, as I’ve been going through each item, the same thought kept recurring: what’s this for, why am I keeping it? These questions prompted others: will I ever really look for this again? What would prompt the inheritors to be interested enough to value this? Are some of these objects so inherently integrated, complete and whole, that they deserve an existence in their own right? In the meantime, I’m wondering if I will ever regain any space; and I get back to “what’s this for?”. Round and round. Inevitably it comes back to me; to what I want. Whether it be what I want for my future self, or for the owners who come after me, it has to be how I see that story. There seems to be no black and white; it’s a subjective thing. Its how I see it; or how I want it to be. Its my choice. If an item survives it has a place in the future and has an influence, tiny or otherwise. If I destroy it, it is removed from the canvas. It may still have an impact by its disappearance, but it may only be missed by me – or not – and very probably not by anyone else; and life will go on as though it was never there. Whatever life is; and whatever going on is; and whatever there is.

Bobbing thoughts and questions

Despite my last post providing extensive musings about objects, a few additional aspects have occurred to me and I’m feeling the need to explore them before I start work on my first test objects. These ideas are unresearched and not particularly erudite or novel, and I only set them down here to stop them bobbing about on my lake of thoughts.

Objects can be anything, large or small. In fact, so far as I know, all objects are actually made up of large numbers of very, very small atomic, and even sub-atomic, objects; and these basic objects can combine to be objects of any number of different sizes including very large objects such as stars.

Of course, this description of objects is a purely human notion – an idea which enables us to make sense of our surroundings. Somehow, we are able to recognise individual objects when we see them – we perceive them as distinct entities with specific forms (though, we need to be aware that we may only be perceiving a subset of an object’s characteristics, for example, we don’t sense the heat radiated from objects). Fascinatingly, humans and all lifeforms are themselves objects in their own right.

However, perhaps the most interesting thing that humans inject into the world of objects, is that we actually MAKE objects. Objects such as toasters are unlikely to emerge from the simple interaction of matter with the laws of nature. Humans choreograph the laws of nature to combine objects of various sizes and types into novel objects which they can recognise and use. It’s not just humans that have this ability; the animals on earth have similar capabilities, for example, birds build nests, and ants build ant hills; and the corollary is also true – both animals and humans can shorten the natural lifespan of particular objects or obliterate them completely.

Obliteration means the total destruction of something – or at least total destruction as perceived by humans . Most of us find it quite easy to envisage such an event: it brings to mind images of something being smashed to smithereens, or of being reduced to crumbling ashes in a fire, i.e., what was an identifiable object with recognisable characteristics, has had its form removed to become just a collection of smaller objects. However, these concepts are not so clear cut in the digital age, in which a digital version of an object can be retained indefinitely even after the physical object has been destroyed. In absolute terms there is no question that obliteration has occurred; however, from the human viewpoint, the digital version can convey some part of the fully formed essence and integrity of an object. Which begs the questions, which parts; and what’s missing; and can obliteration be said to have truly been achieved if both the physical and digital versions have been destroyed but not the memory of the object in a human’s brain?

With all that said, its time to get stuck into my first group of test objects….

Musings on Physical/Virtual Objects

I’ll be exploring the practicalities associated with destroying physical objects by rationalising my mementos, letters, and a few books. However, before diving in (my analogies are influenced by the Olympics which are underway), here’s an attempt to try and order my thoughts about the subject.

Digitisation has added another dimension to the world we perceive: in addition to the physical objects we’ve always had around us, now there are virtual objects that exist in either physical objects we can see and touch such as laptops or hard disks, or in some remote place we refer to variously as system, web, internet, cloud etc.. Some of these virtual objects, such as on-line games or tik-tok videos, are new entities that did not exist previously; other virtual objects have actually replaced physical objects that would have been created, for example, letters, LP records, printed photos, brochures etc.. A third category of virtual object replicates physical objects, for example, a scan of a physical document/painting or a 3D scan of a piece of pottery. I don’t have any numbers associated with the objects in each of the above categories; but my instinct tells me that the quantity of physical objects that we humans are now dealing with is somewhat less than it would have been if digitisation had not occurred – this despite the undoubted increase in physical objects spurred by digitisation and the growth it has spawned. My instinct also tells me that the ratio of digital to physical objects that individuals interact with is steadily increasing year by year; and that our perception of the things that make up our lives, is changing from being almost totally physically oriented to one in which the virtual is assuming a growing normalcy and importance.

Within this shifting landscape, the options we have for dealing with physical objects are changing. Where we once chose paper, we might choose to go paperless; where we once filed we might choose to scan; where we once kept an object we might choose to simply keep a photo; and where we once may have simply destroyed an object we now might digitise it first and then destroy it. These are the sorts of choices most of us are now making quite often; and they have a number of potential impacts:

  • All these choices affect the number of physical objects in the world.
  • The changing mix of physical/virtual objects in the world, and people’s perception of both types of objects, are probably going to affect what people collect, and the composition of collections eventually acquired by curating institutions.
  • When we choose the virtual as an alternative to creating a physical object we are reducing the number of physical objects that our future progeny will encounter.
  • When we choose to replicate a physical object virtually, and then destroy the physical object, we both reduce the number of physical objects that our future progeny will encounter, and prevent our future progeny being able to experience the physical essence of the object – something will have been lost.

The decision to destroy an object is often considered with either an impulse of certainty (as in the case of destroying evidence of a crime), or a tinge of regret (as might be the case with old love letters). Sometimes both emotions may be present (as perhaps with writings produced in our youth which may be both embarrassing yet integral to our past). Such feelings are not the only things that affect the decision. Others include:

Space: a shortage of space may dictate that some things have to go.

Relative age: at 70, an item from one’s youth may or may not be more or less precious than an item from your 70s when you are 90, or an item from your teens when you are in your mid-twenties.

Representation: the emotions that an object conjures up by reminding you of people or events.

Uncertainty: the possibility of wanting or needing the object again in the future must be set against the certainty that the destroyed object can never be reconstituted.

Legacy: the knowledge that other people will be encountering the objects after one’s death, and a possible accompanying desire to bequeath things to others, may inspire notions of organising and rationalising one’s possessions.

In summary, the landscape of our relationship with physical objects is changing. We are a very long way from being physical-objectless, but the direction of travel seems clear – as illustrated by this quote I read in today’s Guardian, “Zuckerberg believes the internet will take on an even bigger role in people’s day-to-day lives in the future, and instead of interacting with it via mobile phones people will be immersed via virtual reality headsets. He said Facebook would transition from a social media platform to a “metaverse company”, where people can work, play and communicate in a virtual environment. Zuckerberg said it would be “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it “[Neate & Rushe]. Now, of course, we should treat such conjectures with a healthy degree of scepticism – but Facebook does have over two billion users…

Whether all this really matters is difficult to say right now – things are changing at a speed which gives us little time to see impacts and make choices. However, our relationship with objects is pretty fundamental, so we should keep an eye on it and try to ensure that we understand what’s going on. My explorations in this journey will attempt to make a small contribution to that understanding.

Neate, R. & Rushe, D., Google, Apple and Microsoft report record-breaking profits, The Guardian, 27th July 2021.

The Halfway House

People have always kept precious physical objects and then destroyed some of them for a variety of reasons. However, digitisation has invaded this relationship by offering a halfway house in which a virtual representation can be retained while still destroying the object. This journey seeks to investigate the impact this might be having on collecting and collections; and on the rationales associated with keeping and discarding. I have already encountered this phenomenon in other investigations documented in this blog – in particular the Digital Age Artefacts journey, though that focused on rationales for keeping things whereas my focus in this Object Obliteration investigation will be the thinking associated with destroying things. The Electronic Bookshelf journey is also relevant since it investigated what digital material would have to be provided to persuade an individual to destroy a book (the follow-up Electronic Story Board journey may also provide further insights). However, this will be a more focused look at the issues associated with completely obliterating an object for ever, as informed by my continuing search for space in my study (space – often the final frontier on which keeping/destroying decisions have to be made) among my books, mementos and letters.