I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally think of Calendars as a technological innovation; they’re just things to hang on walls and write appointments into. However, this is the time of year to replace our calendars, and a time of year that is replete with holidays, many of them determined by calendars that are not our usual day-to-day Gregorian calender, such as Hanukkah. As I unpacked calenders which were Christmas gifts, hanging them on my wall or placing them on my desk, it struck me that our common way of measuring days and time is an artificial technological structure, superimposed on the passage of time in order to measure and delineate it. I started to wonder how it is that we have decided to measure time, and what other alternate methods there might be to do this.
It’s the Christmas season, with shopping centers crammed with consumers, and corporations touting the latest releases just in time for the holidays: new books, new fashions, and new gadgets. While I love new gizmos and doohickeys, and I’m always happy to see what the latest technological developments can do (and to devise all sorts of diabolical new uses for things), I’m not always sure that the latest technological “wrinkles” in consumer goods are good. Sometimes designers take perfectly good solutions, and just “muck them up”. Perhaps it is time to examine our quest for the “latest thing” and really think about what makes a new technology, or technological approach, a good one.
Did you read comic books as a kid, or do you read comic books now? Do you remember those ads in the back which advertised all sorts of amazing sounding junk: sea monkeys, Charles Atlas body building books, pepper gum, and x-ray specs? I do, and although I never did send in my hard-earned money even for sea monkeys (I was in my mid 30s before I ever owned sea monkeys, but that’s another story…), I was fascinated by those ads.
I think what drew me in about the infamous “X-Ray Specs” was the idea of seeing the world differently. At the age of 8, I had little interest of the more prurient uses of x-ray specs, but seeing the world in a way that I could not normally was a fascinating concept. Of course, (I’m sorry to tell you) “X-Ray Specs” don’t really do what they claim, but modern technology does allow us to alter our senses, in ways that are both commonplace, and in ways that no one seems to be doing – yet.