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Media Unplugged

Faster information flow was once something to be desired. When messages had to be physically delivered, you took your time composing them. You really tried to get every possible bit you could out of that communication. We used to thank each other in advance for our consideration.

For a long time, things improved slowly. We rode horses, camels and elephants, tied pieces of paper to birds, filled boats and cars and airplanes with envelopes and parcels, but all that time the general feeling was that everybody liked mail, and we couldn’t get enough of it.

Then junkmail was invented, and we got our first taste of the coming information superhighway, plastered with billboards from sea to shining sea. It began to dawn on us that it was possible to O.D.

Instead our capacity to both produce and consume information exploded when we all got wired up to each other through electronic media: the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, the T.V., and now the Internet. Our newfound tolerance has created the conditions for long-term dependency, which finally made it down to cigarette-pack proportions with the invention of the smartphone.

The Pony Express, a kind of ancient sneakernet.

We crossed a line somewhere between utility and overdesign. Our information culture went straight from revelation to decadence, without passing through the usual intermediate stages of disappointment, makeover, triumph and veneration. Or perhaps it did pass through all the requisite stages, but it happened so fast there was no time to parse it. These accidental trends will all even out in the end, and we will be left as always with some pieces of technology which we use more or less as designed, and which had a story behind them that no one can really remember.

Meanwhile, all of this technology was supposed to improve communication, and what was it that was being said all this time?

Devices that can retrieve data and perform computations faster than the human brain are useful indeed, but actual thinking happens at the same old speed. In fact slower, because there is simply much more input. And it must be noted, reading happens at the speed of thinking.

If you like to think and read at a natural pace, you’re looking for material that has been put together with care, that has a message to communicate, and that is worth the paper it’s printed on. Give us a try; we may have something you will like. ♦

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Matchlock Press