Ancient Technology

#dusa, #tcgcon, #emos and other modern conference paradigms

I think the most stand out thing at the arts service conferences is the buzz around twitter. I allowed for an hour of twitter twitter in my class back in March and I find it all pretty funny. As the target of most contemporary advertising and inventive marketing, and typically an early adopter, I find the fervor more entertaining than anything else. It’s like when I tried to explain the answering machine to my grandmother. 

The feeling I’ve been getting is that the twittachment is somewhat caused by a messianic appeal of a way to reach youth. Somewhere though, the phrase “content is king” got left out. It’s all about the medium and nothing about the message, so that when the medium is the message all you’re saying by using twitter is that you know about twitter. Whether you say something in 140 characters sent out into the ether for all of your casual followers, or you send them a postcard, it doesn’t mean anything unless it means something. 

That is to say, I’m missing the discussion about modeling and alternative revenue streams. It all just sounds like new ways to market the same old thing… like gillette adding a blade to its vibrating razor. The revolutionary thought would be, and I think even going backwards to my idea of “ancient technology” is revolutionary at times, would be to sell an old school straight razor. Between the retro and hardcore cachés and durability in light of disposable disdain, it would be meaningful if not successful. And, when it seems the arts are about losing money for culture, at least as long as we’re attached to our 501(c)3 stati, that might be successful. 

So Theater, Dance, non-profit arts presenters, I ask you: what is your message? Is it that you know how to use a computer and have internet access that you can stick interns on to try and build youthful cache? Or, is it something worth twittering about?

Treadmill Bike

I often talk to my students and people in workshops about Ancient Technology. What the term means refers to is old ways of doing things that are simple and forgo electronics. The most important part though is that they strip down systems instead of adding onto existing systems. 

An example of an ancient technology might be using steamed banana leaves for food service, or non-vitrified clay in drink ware that gets smashed and reformed. Both are sterile, both from the about of heat used to prepare them for use. The banana leaf is biodegradable entirely and the cup is truly recycled (as opposed to downcycled, though I guess you might be loose some clay in the process, but It’s just clay)

Ancient technologies are my favorites because they were created out of necessity out of what was available and they’re simple. 

A lot of our green technologies are now systems layered on other systems. Or, the incorporation of one technology into an existing one to make it greener. But, this doesn’t work as well as not making the first one benign in the first place. 

I’ll use Hybrid cars as an example.

By adding a battery into the power train of the car you do decrease emissions significantly. However, battery technology doesn’t last as long as internal combustion technology alone, so the life cycle of the car for the user is less. They would need more cars in the same period of time.

Also, the newness of the technology then asks people to buy new cars. If they already have a working vehicle and it continues to have a life with another user as a used car, you’ve not decreased the number of cars on the road creating emissions necessarily, you’ve added a car that isn’t as bad as another. 

Finally there is also issue of destruction at the end of the car’s life. New systems of disposing the hybrid batteries, or at least expansion of existing systems of disposal make are need to accommodate this new technology. 

And as it continues to evolve, like it will with plug in hybrids, more systems will be created to deal with the effects of changing existing technology. 

On the other hand, another approach to curbing emissions is building infrastructure that doesn’t require a car in the first place. Building an urban environment that is geared towards pedestrians and then added mass transit systems for longer distances that alleviate the need to have a dedicate personal car.

While these infrastructural changes might not be ancient, they do predate cars and thus would predate the issues of cars in their impact. 

As an example of what happens when you unnecessarily add technology onto another, I offer you the Teadmill Bike. It is a bike that instead of pedaling, you walk on a treadmill. 

While the intention is to give you a treadmill gym experience outside, it disregards the point of a treadmill. If you’re on a treadmill you don’t want to walk anywhere, you want to stay put in your gym. 

The better alternative? Walking… or just biking.

I personally hope this was a joke.