U4.2 A model of OFC activities

The model below illustrates what the main OFC activities are, and the way in which they relate to each other.

Define What & Why involves identifying what objects and/or locations are going to be dealt with, and the rationale that is going to be applied for keeping and discarding items.

Plan refers to deciding how you are going to do the work; what sort of storage is going to be used; and what digital technology will be employed.

Sort & Organise concerns the process of organising the objects in the collection, and keeping some while discarding others.

Digitise is the activity of creating digital versions of physical objects, and/or creating digital support for the collection.

Store refers to placing the physical and the digital items into their permanent locations.

Use involves all the ways in which the re-organised collection will be put to use.

Exploit concerns the way objects from one or more collections can be manipulated and combined in innovative ways to create interesting experiences for the person performing the exploitation and for others who enjoy the results.

Maintain is the activity of backing up digital materials, and keeping digital systems up to date, to protect against loss or the inability to read the materials in the future.

Each of these activities is described in more detail in units 5 – 12.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U4.1 The basic approach – with no digital support

A key element of the OFC approach is the organisation of a collection of things. Understanding how to go about this, and being able to actually do it effectively, are essential pre-requisites for a successfull OFC project. The following 11 step process is one way of doing it:

  1. Be clear about what specific categories of stuff you want to deal with.
  2. Figure out why you want to keep each category.
  3. Take the opportunity to reassess what you really want to keep/collect going forward.
  4. Decide where the best place is to store each category.
  5. Be clear about the specific space you are going to use for storage.
  6. Decide how you will set out, equip and organise the storage space.
  7. Do a quick sort of each category into sub-categories.
  8. As you do the quick sort, set aside the stuff you want to throw away or dispose of.
  9. Decide exactly how you will store each sub-category.
  10. Go through each sub-category in detail, organising as required.
  11. Set up the storage space/containers/equipment and store the sorted sub-categories.

The short 2 page description of Practical approaches to Order from Chaos provides a more detailed description of each step.

If one was to undertake a lot of OFC projects – especially if they were to be on behalf of other people – it might be worth creating some checklists of requirements and activities. The requirements could be in the form of a Service List specifying what is required (for example, are photos required of each object); and the activities could be in the form of a Process List including items such as, Inspect site/artefacts, Assemble kit, Define end layout etc. The Service list and Process List in the links above assume that the work is being undertaken as a service at a price. However they can be modified to suit your own requirements.

Two other approaches which provide alternative perspectives on organising collections are documented in the following books:

The links above take you to reviews of the books which include summaries of their general approaches.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U4 Approach – Introduction

Before embarking on an OFC project, it’s worth understanding the general approach that you will need to take. This section provides the following material to help you with that:

4.1 The basic approach – with no digital support
4.2 A model of OFC activities
4.3 Examples some OFC projects
4.4 Points to bear in mind

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.5 Why do it? – Why bother exploiting your collections?

There is little point in keeping things if you are not going to enjoy them and/or use them. By using the flexibility of the digital you can exploit the contents of your collections, make them visible, and bring them to life. There are a huge numbers of ways in which you can present items, relate items together, make up quizzes about items, tell stories about items etc. etc.; and then use digital technology to produce the results in some form or other.

The process of doing this will enable you to explore your collections, and may remind you of things you have forgotten. The results can be shared and enjoyed with family and friends. Indeed this is an effective way of helping family members to learn a bit more about their history.

The actual doing of such exploitation activities can also be fulfilling as a way of expressing one’s own creative desires and inspirations – even if you are worried that they might appear a little unusual or strange. This story about Kurt Vonnegut provides encouragement to all who may have such concerns: Schoolchildren wrote to him asking him to speak to them. he replied saying, “……What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: practise any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow… Do it for the rest of your lives!”

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.4 Why do it? – Why use digital technology to organise your collections?

Some of the more common reasons for using digital technology to organise a collection are:

To free up space: Scanning documents and discarding the paper originals is a very common solution to the problem of overflowing file cabinets and drawers. The same principle can be applied to objects by photographing them.

To make the contents of a collection more portable: Digitised documents, books (see the 4th para of this link), music, mementos, and objects can all be enjoyed anywhere on light, easy to carry, tablet computers.

To provide an index to make it easier to manage and find things: Collections can have their own in-built filing structure (alphabetical order for example, or all electrical goods in one place and all sports equipment in another). However, this requires you to be actually looking at the collection to discern the arrangement and scrutinise its contents. Having a digital index enables the collection’s contents to be inspected at the time and place of your own choosing. It also allows an item to be searched for and, if position information is included in the index, its exact location to be established before visiting the collection itself.

To exploit a collection’s contents: Once digitised there are many different ways in which items can be put to use, made more visible, and just generally enjoyed. For example, documents and photos can be reproduced in books; posters can be produced of various aspects of a family’s history; greetings cards, cushions mugs etc. can all include photos. All these things and more can be achieved quite simply and cheaply using services available on the net; though much can be achieved simply with a home computer and printer. Of course, if you really want to combine the best of the new with the old, you can create a book on your computer, print out the pages, and then bind the pages manually using book binding techniques developed over the centuries.

To get rid of things but still be able to see them: Sometimes you have things which you never really look at or use, and that you think you ought to throw away; but to which you feel an attachment that prevents you from taking that final step of destruction. Digital technology resolves the problem for you. Once digitised the physical artefacts can be destroyed but you will still have the digital images tucked away, taking up no visible space, but always there should you want to take a look.

To make things more visible: Unless a physical collection is deliberately displayed, its contents are usually hidden and have to be  accessed to look at. However, the contents of a digital collection can be continually displayed on a computer as a desktop background, a screen saver, or as an image display gadget. Alternatively, they can be displayed on a digital picture frame. Books provide another example: when physical books are displayed on a bookshelf, you can’t see their covers. However, digital book collections are usually displayed on screen with their covers side by side (see the last para of the link). Interestingly, physical book titles have to be read sideways down the spine, whilst in the digital environment a stack of books can be displayed on their sides (see the penultimate para of the link) so that the titles can be read horizontally.

To share copies: The ease with which digital copies can be made  and distributed makes it much easier to share digital items than physical items. Of course true sharing, in which only one copy exists but is accessed by two or more people, can also be enabled in the digital environment by the use of cloud services or by the use of a shared computer server.

To record pictures and sounds: These days, we don’t have to choose to use digital technology to take photos or videos of our family, friends, experiences and places we visit: digital photography is the norm. Similarly, the digital recording and playing of music and spoken word books is also the norm. Sometimes people also employ digital recording to capture the spoken memories of their older family members and of local people.

There are, of course, some points to bear in mind before deciding to use a digital approach:

The choice between physical and digital: Physical objects have characteristics which can’t (currently) be replicated digitally, for example, the scent of a love letter, the touch of a fabric, the weight of a medal, or the fragility of a falling-apart book. These are characteristics that we are deciding to destroy when we choose digital over physical. In these cases, a hybrid approach in which a collection has both the physical and digital versions of an object, is worth considering.

Physical naturalness vs digital engineering: People appreciate and make use of the physical things they find and have – they enjoy the simplicity and immediacy of the physical. They may engineer systems around them (for example, put them in albums) but that is usually just for additional enjoyment. In the digital world, however, we are forced into engineering systems. For a start, you need another device (a computer), primed with appropriate software, to enjoy the digital artefacts. So what was a simple and straightforward world of physical things for individuals and the previous generations of their families, has now been encroached upon by an engineered world that requires continuous care and attention in order to access these new digital things. An example which illustrates this tension between physical and digital is the daily To Do List. On the face of it, this is an activity which cries out for digital support: a text list is created, items are crossed of it, and things still on the list at the end of the day need to be transferred to the next day’s list. Despite this, however, some people try the electronic version but then revert back to paper (see the 3rd and 5th paras of this link) citing its immediacy and simplicity.

The fragility of the digital: Our digital systems have many vulnerabilities. For example:

  • Both the hardware and the software is prone to developing faults and requiring repair or replacement. They also require periodic updating to enable them to use the newer  systems and to operate effectively within the support regimes of the suppliers.
  • The inter-connectedness and complexity of computers make them vulnerable to criminals intent on data and identity theft.
  • The information that is held on a computer can be totally lost in a system crash, disk crash, computer virus attack, fire, or flood.
  • The digital world is complex to understand and sometimes to use. Even if you have figured out how to deal with one type of digital object, there is no guarantee that other objects in your digital collections can be accessed by the same software, or that they can be moved from one software system into another. For example, extracting emails and texts from multiple different services to establish a single file of communications could be very difficult to achieve.

Conversion can sometimes be difficult: Scanners and digital cameras are usually easy to use; but sometimes the demands of the objects being digitised make things more difficult. For example, trying to scan an A3 page, or a whole page of a newspaper, can’t be done on an A4 scanner in one pass. The only way to do it is to make a scan of each part and hope that the reader will make sense of the combined set of images.  Similar problems occur when scanning documents with multiple folds in which specific areas are revealed when specific elements are unfolded. The person doing the scanning has to make choices about what elements to scan in what order; and the reader may find it difficult to make sense of the resulting multiplicity of scanned images. Books, too, present a problem if you want to scan them. Sometimes the spine will not bend enough to allow a clear scan up to the spine side of each page. If you want to be able to use a sheet feeder on a book (to avoid the trouble of having to scan each page or pair of pages), it will be necessary to cut the pages from the spine which effectively destroys the book. Photographing objects may also be problematic. There are, of course, the normal challenges of getting appropriate lighting and minimising glare and reflection. Beyond this, however, it can be quite difficult to photograph flat items without making them appear larger or smaller on one side than another. The camera needs to be positioned in exactly the same plane as the item being photographed  in order to achieve a picture that isn’t distorted. A tripod can help – but the camera still has to be positioned correctly in the first place.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.3 Why do it? – What are the pros and cons of organising your collections?

It’s not essential to be organised or tidy – life will not come to an end if you’re not. However there are certain advantages and they are outlined below. Of course, most good things come with a price and the disadvantages and difficulties are also described.


Perhaps the biggest benefit of having an organised collection is that you are actually able to find things in it; and possibly much faster and more easily than otherwise. By the same token, it may  also be easier to store things simply because there is an established place for things to go.

Another key advantage is that having an organised collection probably means that you are managing the space it takes up. That’s not to say that it’s necessarily taking up less space – just that you are more likely to be in control of the space and ensuring that it’s not interfering with other activities or generally being a worry. By being in control, you can decide whether to adjust/move the storage space to optimise your overall layout.

By actively organising a collection, you are probably going to be making more careful judgements about what you are putting in it. You may even be more diligent about going through it and clearing out items that you no longer need; and this closer attention to its contents may renew your interest in certain items and inspire you to give more visibility to them.

If part or all of a collection is covered by insurance, then any records that are kept to manage the collection could be invaluable in a) assessing how much insurance to take out, and b) in making a claim for loss or damage.

If you spend the time and effort in organising a collection, you may be more inclined to keep it in order than you were previously because you won’t want your efforts to be wasted. Both Marie Kondo and Liz Davenport believe that if you apply their techniques to your collections you will experience a changed mindset which will make it easier for you to keep organised going forwards.

Completing the organisation of your collections may make you feel better and more content with life. Indeed Marie Kondo and Liz Davenport both believe that once you have become organised, you are more likely to be able to discover what it is you really want to do in life.

Summary of the advantages

  • Enables you to find things
  • Makes it easier and quicker to find things
  • Makes it easier to store things
  • Prevents storage requirements spiralling out of control
  • Inspires greater selectivity about what is included
  • Increases the likelihood of undertaking regular clearouts
  • Improves the chances of discovering forgotten items
  • Supports the insurance process
  • Changes your mindset such that it becomes easier to keep things in order subsequently
  • Makes you feel better and more content


Organising a chaotic mess is a hard thing to do. It will require some effort and some sort of plan of how you are going to do it. Some people don’t even know where to start.

Getting a collection in order may well take quite a bit of time – time which you may feel could be better spent on more important things.

In the course of organising a collection you are likely to have to make some hard decisions about what to throw away and what to keep.

One person’s idea of what an organised collection looks like may still look chaotic to another person. So, when a collection belongs to two or more people in a household, office, or elsewhere, it’s important to ensure that the way it is organised works for all the owners. This can complicate matters.

Once you have finished organising a collection, you will have to continue to manage it to ensure that it doesn’t fall back into its original state. This treadmill of continuous work that has to be done to keep collections in order can feel like a chore and not something that you particularly want to do.

Summary of the disadvantages and difficulties

  • It’s hard to do and requires some effort
  • Takes quite a bit of time
  • Requires difficult decisions to be made about what to keep and what to throw away.
  • It may be more difficult to organise a collection with multiple owners
  • Continuous work required to keep collections in order

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.2 Why do it? – What problems arise as collections build up?

The most obvious characteristic of a growing collection is that it takes up more space; and it is usually space that we haven’t got. Many people are disinclined to have clear-outs unless they really have to, and so, as a collection gets bigger, the clearout task seems more and more difficult so is less and less likely to happen. Whether it’s a desk drawer, a garage, or a mobile phone, we usually end up having to have a rapid clear out in order to make room for the new things we urgently want to store.

Another feature of a collection that’s getting bigger is that it often gets harder and harder to see what it contains and to find something within it. Sometimes things just become invisible and then forgotten about in an amorphous mass of stuff. Even if a collection is well organised, it is very likely that mistakes will be made and items will get stored in the wrong place. Over a period of time such errors may result in a significant number of misplaced items that can’t be found. This problem is exacerbated by the way in which we often design our storage to be easy to get things out, whereas it would be more helpful in the long term to make it easy to put things away in the correct place.

In the longer term, large unmanaged collections will require increased removal effort when we move house; and they will present more of a problem than a joy for those who inherit.

Marie Kondo in her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ believes that letting collections grow like topsy is not just a practical problem, but that it actually affects people’s lives. She says that, if you keep putting stuff away in drawers or boxes, before you realise it your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.1 Why do it? – Why do we keep things?

Marie Kondo, the author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’, has some very clear answers to this question. She says we that we keep things because either we become too attached to the past or we have a fear of the unknown future; and that we fail to get to grips with clutter as an instinctive reflex to avoid thinking about the other issues in our lives. That we may become too attached to the past seems a valid point, however the other two assertions may be a little speculative, and, in any case are made with respect to one’s general household possessions. If we consider something rather more specific such as photos, people seem to keep them a) as a reminder of the past, and b) to share their experiences with others. There are many aspects to the first reason including:

Most of these reasons could also be said to apply to keeping letters sent from someone you were close to. However, there are two other important reasons for keeping letters – to be able to find out facts about the sender at a later date; and also to act as a focal point for reflection – reflection about the relationships one has had and about the value of friendship.

We keep our personal writings, diaries and poetry for similar reasons, though, in this case, the reflection we may wish to do is about how we feel about things, what we have done and how we have conducted ourselves. Interestingly, the ability to find out something you had forgotten from personal writings includes the ability to find out the true facts about something you had remembered wrongly. One’s own published work is rather different. Such material is probably kept because it represents the individual and the work he/she has done. There’s an element of pride involved. If the material was lost or destroyed then somehow the individual would feel a part of their being was missing.

Many of the reasons already discussed also apply to mementos – documents and artefacts that people acquire in the course of things they are doing or experiencing. However, to try and understand keeping rationale further and to provide an aid which would help people decide what to keep and what to discard, an analysis of a work memento collection was undertaken. Out of that exercise emerged a so-called Wish Table with the following categories of reasons for keeping (the percentages indicate the relative numbers of approximately 500 personal mementos that the Wish Table was subsequently applied to):

  • Not forget (1%)
  • To be reminded of (28%)
  • Reference (42%)
  • Feel pride (7%)
  • Pass on to family (9%)
  • Too special to get rid of (20%)
  • Unusual (5%)

The ‘pass on to family’ reason is particularly important as most people seem to have an interest in where they came from and in the history of their forebears. As people grow older, some perhaps realise that it is incumbent upon them to pass on their knowledge and artefacts safely to the following generation – otherwise the knowledge about the family will get lost and forgotten in the passage of time.

The types of objects already mentioned – photos, letters, personal writings, published work, mementos – are all very intimately related to the individual. We might imagine that other objects may be kept for rather more mundane reasons. For example, people may keep books simply because they like the touch and feel of them and like having them around. However, books also make a statement about an individual and their personal interests and what information and ideas they have been subjected to. The same goes for record collections.

One of the more unusual types of objects explored in this site is a collection of T-shirts with logos or legends. These were kept because they were evidence of being somewhere or doing something; or because they were a reminder of an experience or a person.

Collections in the more formal sense of the word (such as stamp collections) tend to have less of an intimate relationship to oneself. They are usually started because a person has an interest in the particular type of object that is being collected, and because there is a desire to complete the collection – or at least to expand it to be significant in size and comprehensive in content. People find it fun to collect things, and see it as an interesting hobby with which they can fill some of their spare time, or which provides a diversion from the other parts of their lives.

In summary, the experiences of this site suggest that people keep things because they like to be reminded of the past and to be able to reflect on it. They perceive some objects to define them in some way and therefore would feel less whole without them; and they see the importance of maintaining a history of the family. These all seem perfectly good and healthy reasons for keeping things – provided they don’t become all-consuming or disruptive to day-to-day life.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U3.0 Why do it? – Introduction

If you are going to spend a lot of time and effort organising and managing your collections, at some point you and others may start to wonder things like why you are doing it and is it worth it. The following five questions seem to be the ones that are most useful to get some answers to before embarking on OFC activities. Each of them is discussed in subsequent units.

Why do we keep things?
What problems arise as collections build up?
What are the pros and cons of organising your collections?
Why use digital technology to organise your collections?
Why bother exploiting your collections?

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit

U2.4 Scope & Terminology – Understanding today in the context of yesterday

In many of the topics explored in this site (letters, music, photos, finances, etc.) there have been huge changes over the last, say, 70 years. So much so that a description of how we used them in my youth might only be vaguely recognised by my grown-up children; but it will be completely unrecognisable – maybe even incomprehensible – to my grandchildren as they grow up in the coming years. This represents a huge gap in knowledge and understanding when it comes to these younger generations making decisions about what memories, information, artefacts and practices to keep or discard. To illustrate the point, and perhaps to inform the younger reader, below are several descriptions of how it was in the past and how it is today.

The past: For the first 60 years of the 1900s, records were sold in the 78 rpm (revolutions per minute) format. By the 1960s, these had been replaced by LP records (Long Playing, 33 rpm). People bought records and played them over and over again and really got to know their contents. Most people had a collection of LPs which took up quite a lot of space and was fairly heavy. Smaller cassette tapes arrived and a place for them was found in the record cabinet. Most houses had a large stereo music system which could play all these formats and which included a radio as well. Then CDs arrived and people replaced their records and tapes with them – and of course had to buy new equipment to play them on.

Today: People download digital music onto their mobile phones – sometimes whole albums, sometimes single tracks. They play them through their headphones or over stand alone wi-fi loudspeakers. Some prefer to just subscribe to a streaming service like Spotify and have access to millions of songs.

The past: For most of the 1900s, people used to buy a film of between 12 and 40 photos, load it into their camera, take pictures, and then take it to a shop for developing. When the prints came back and they’d been shown to family and friends, some people put them in albums but most just put them in boxes or drawers. When someone died, the photos that were found were passed down the family.

Today: We have a camera with us all the time in our mobile phones. We take photos at will, discard the rubbish ones and keep the rest indefinitely . Sometimes we share them in systems like Instagram and Facebook. Eventually we find we’ve run out of space on our phones and we have to delete some or move them elsewhere. When someone dies their mobile phone, and all the photos it contains, may be passed onto the family for them to sort out.

The past: Books were produced by publishers who selected authors, and arranged the printing and distribution of the books. Authors who couldn’t find a publisher willing to invest in them were able to make their own arrangements for their books to be printed – but at a substantial price. Printing was a large scale engineering operation which used a variety of mechanical techniques for creating a plate from which multiple copies could be printed.  In the 1980s, computer-based printing systems emerged in which pages were created  in publishing software and printed directly on digitally controlled printers.

Today: E-books, which can be read on a tablet computer, are widespread. Hundreds of e-books can be stored in one tablet and can be read anywhere. Despite the popularity of e-books, physical book sales are still holding their own. Physical book production is cheap: individuals can download their completed texts to specialist services on the net and get a one-off physical copy for the price of two or three rounds of drinks. Alternatively they can elect to have a specialist web site sell their book online in e-book form. However, authors still have great difficulty in finding a publisher who is prepared to invest in them and fund a print run of physical books and organise their distribution and sale.

The past: In the middle of the 1900s some people didn’t have a bank account and just used cash. Even in the 1970s many people were still given pay packets containing physical cash. Those who did have a bank account were sent hardcopy statements every week or month. Payment in and out of the accounts was mainly by cash or cheque. Cash was obtained by queuing up in the bank and handing over a cheque for cash from your account. Most big banks had a branch in every town. Loans were usually provided through the bank but were given close scrutiny and were approved only for specific purposes. People paid for goods with cash or cheque. In the 1960s,to reduce fraud, people were issued with cheque cards which they had to sign and then present to shopkeepers along with their cheque.

Today: Most people have a bank account, an associated debit card, and a variety of credit cards. Debit and credit cards are as acceptable as cash. Contactless payment by passing these cards over a machine, is widespread. Many people are in overall debt across all their accounts. Large numbers of loan firms push their services and encourage people to apply, though many of them impose punitive interest rates. Cash is obtained by using debit and credit cards in cash machines which are widely available. Online bank accounts are commonplace, and users are able to use them to make their own payments to other people’s accounts. Banks are increasingly shutting down their local branches.

The past: For centuries we have been writing letters and sending them to each other. They were personal, informative and reflective; and they took a little time to write. People often kept the letters they got from the special people in their lives. You didn’t get too many letters, so waiting for the postman’s delivery used to be something to look forward to.

Today: We get loads of hardcopy mail – but most of it is junk. We are also deluged by email both at work and at home – too much to handle really – and replying has to be done quickly. We also send and receive large numbers of texts which somehow seem better because they are short and quicker to create and deal with. We have huge collections of emails and texts held within the systems they came in, which we are able to search and retrieve at will. However, moving these stores or accumulating them together is not a practical proposition, and probably a little pointless given the huge volumes involved. They are useful just as they are, but useless in any other state. We don’t write too much that is reflective, however we do keep in much closer touch with the minutiae of the lives of our families and friends through systems like Facebook.

The past: People used to carry little pocket sized diaries with them. They contained a space or page for every day of the year, and sections for addresses, phone numbers, and notes. If you lost your diary it could be disastrous and you might never again be able to find some of the information it contained. People kept their old paper diaries and were able to look up what they were doing or somebody’s address many years later. Some people kept larger diaries, and wrote reflective summaries of what they’d been doing on a particular day.  Business people often kept separate diaries at work. Many families had a shared calendar in a prominent position in the house.

Today: Calendar and name and address information is mainly kept in mobile phones and/or email systems which are usually backed up in the cloud. Some people still use a paper diary as well to record their appointments. Old calendar information is always available in the current system you are using; but special effort is required to extract it and maintain it in some separate store. Many families still maintain physical shared calendars in the house.

The past: The landline telephone was hugely important throughout the 1900s. Nearly all businesses and households were connected and their numbers could be found in the local phone book which was delivered free to every house and office; or via the free national directory enquiry service. For those without a phone, or away from home or office, public phone boxes were installed locally in every town and village. In the 1990s, phone-based voice messaging systems became popular as an alternative to the emerging email systems; and voice conferencing started to become an essential business tool.

Today: Most people carry their own mobile phone with them everywhere, and make and receive calls anytime, anywhere. The mobile phone handset has become a powerful personal computer in its own right and includes a sophisticated camera, the ability to store and play music, and facilities to send and receive email and to access web sites. Many households and offices also continue to have their landlines as well, though people are increasingly questioning the value of having both. A whole variety of directory services offer to find landline numbers – but at a cost. Finding out mobile phone numbers is more difficult – individuals usually just provide their number to those who need it. Voice messaging systems have sunk without trace. Voice conferencing remains an essential business tool – though it is often provided through internet-based services. In fact, the internet provides an effective free alternative phone capability which delivers video as well as voice, and many people use this via services such as Skype to keep in touch with their immediate families if they are living far apart.

The past: In the 1970s, there was no internet, there were no web sites, and email was for specialists in the know. If you wanted information – say product information, for example – you sent away for it, received it in the overland mail, used it, and then filed it for future use. If you needed to find out facts, people used the dictionaries, thesauri, and encyclopaedias that they had in their homes and offices. For more in-depth information people used to go to libraries.

Today: Most information is available on tap in web sites; and that’s where it stays because readers know the latest version will be there next time they want to use it – people are now much less inclined to keep information locally. In fact, there is so much information on the net that people now regard it as their second memory and instinctively google information when they encounter a gap in their knowledge during a conversation. They also use the net to research anything and everything about potential employees or people they’ve just met – what their experience is, what they’ve been doing, what they look like and where they live. Even obtaining pictures of almost any object is easy using image searches. However, the longevity of information on the net is not assured: web sites are being updated or removed all the time. So, people may be being lulled into a false sense of security about what the net can be relied on to provide in the long term.

To previous Unit                                    To Contents                                     To next Unit