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Monday, July 31, 2006
The object as a starting point for nostalgia. Discuss. The web's role as collector and presenter of past lives and past is something of an obsession here at things - we even indulge in a little bit of it ourselves. Consider nostaglia as our most powerful and most universal emotion. Is the object its primary vessel? Objects are constants, fixed things that remain as everything around them is in motion. However, the plurality of available meanings in everyday things - the signs, symbols and intentions behind consumption - have led to a situation whereby history can be imprinted onto an object, as can any number of meanings.

As the internet was just starting to make itself felt as a cultural force, commentators wrote despairingly at the way the late 20th century consumer bought so willingly into 'nostalgia marketing'. Before we crystalised our nostalgic feelings in objects and devices to capture this emotion - bottled like an exotic scent - nostalgia existed as a diaphanous, dangerous idea, something that could be used to stir up populations, wielded by politicians, exiles and idealists for whom the past was always a better place.

Svetlana Boym's book The Future of Nostalgia deals with, largely, the way in which nostalgia for a past erased by politics manifested itself in the urban environment (there's an interview with Boym here, the infuriating background music soon disappears). Boym's perspective was coloured by her past in Soviet Russia (now the subject of vast tracts of the internet, from space to military might, to industrial ruins (again, somethere we've been guilty of ourselves), a collective memory that, through the internet's archival powers, has manifested itself in object form.

One of the features of modern life is how objects often start out by embodying the future, then swiftly becomes consumed by nostalgia. Consider the iPod, a technological revolution which also facilitated revisiting the past (at the risk of sounding like Dylan Jones). But it's not just music; the ease with which one can find information on classic TV shows, browse old car manuals or commercials has eviscerated niche interest and made everything part of the mainstream, allow cults can be perpetuated (or even exposed). So much of our lives are consumed with storing and recalling memories that we are in danger of failing to create a present about which we can one day be nostalgic about.

*

Other things. Gosh photo's links page continues to be a treasure trove of interesting imagery / Natasha Kidd makes machines that paint / The Photographer's Shadow. There but not there / Photosynth, one way to 'augmented reality', via me-fi. See also this BBC story about the technology. See also 'Photorealism and Non-Photorealism in Virtual Heritage Representation', the dread idea of having important buildings boiled down into 3D models.

'Woman sought in Magic Cheese scam', the perfect headline / Geller vs Carson (and Randi) / Evening time on my allotments, some bucolic images at 1mag3 / digital accumulation, a visual weblog / the Falling Sand Game. Like many millions of Lemmings (also available in Java) / play Sim City Classic in your browser. Another great idea, the java train set, from the simple to the fantastic. The Time Travel Tube Map came up as well, as well as Ben Fry's zipdecode / explore Yukiweb.

Lo-fi electronic music at Bhaji's Garden / Terrafugia - is it a car, is it a plane? / generation debt, a book and weblog by Anya Kamenetz / photo-realism by John Baeder / how not to repair your Maybach / the photography of Christian Patterson (via gatsu gatsu) / Make no sound, a weblog / beautiful abstraction at Slower.

Beautifully observed images at Picture of the Week (see also here). Designer Daniel Eatock has a website bursting with innovation, from the images of camera straps to damaged Fiat Coupes ('Each photograph presents a car that has a second graphic mark as a compliment to the original by result of an accident. A combination of design and accident colliding.'). Thank You Photographs.