My mind is wandering as I am traveling across the country, thinking about how easy it is. I know we get upset about airline glitches, but really: What a time we are living. And what interesting crossroads we face. New choices every day. Choices about how we structure our lives, from play to products; wonderful opportunities, different challenges. Our students know better than most how the past streams behind us, whizzing away. And in its wake: We struggle to live in the present, if even we think about it, likely creating lives with assumptions closer to Newtonâ€™s than to even Einsteinâ€™s. Products are obsolete before they wear out. Repairs are a thing of the past. We discard our records, delete our email, never print out images, and trash our environment â€“ both material and virtual. We discard our history and threaten our future.
And to make matters worse, we know that during the past 25 years we have nurtured a chronic, civic amnesia. An entire generation â€“ likely now two â€“ have tossed away a good bit of their history.
Now more than ten years ago, Terry Faulkner, one of the architects of Eastman Kodak Companyâ€™s remarkable transformation from analog into digital, described the change from traditional photography into a new media as a â€œdisruptive technology substitution.â€ By that he meant that things would no longer be the same. Pictures would look different; they would be made differently, and they would be taken differently. â€œNew business models will be required,â€ he reasoned, â€œand there will be a major shakeoutâ€ â€“ not only in the photography business, but also with all those who use digital technologies in any way.
Picture making and distribution really has changed. Where once one took and then processed and created a picture and only then distributed it to loved ones and friends or to other media, photographers now open their shutter upon a scene and send the signal to their family or to their magazine, without reviewing a print: Distribute right now, then print.
Similarly, digital technologies have influenced such basic strategies as problem solving. Where once one was advised to previsualize the means toward an outcome, one now need not imagine the outcome before beginning a process. Solutions, like a networked application, are discovered by swarming through several solutions toward an outcome, testing these trials as they are created:
Networked, not point to point. New tools. New responses. Different systems. New architectures for virtual priorities. Interesting crossroads. The plane is landing.
Dr. Anthony Bannon is the Director of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. He has held that position since 1996, previously serving as director of the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center, and director of Cultural Affairs on the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo, both located in Buffalo, N.Y.
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