As I’ve been piecing this blog together, it struck me how the web and digital culture have become so much about customization and individuality. Or has it always been that way, and only recently can true amateurs grab a mouse and build themselves a custom website at Yola.com, blog their thoughts with Blogger or WordPress, Flickr their life, or craft unwearable sneakers at Gourmetkickscreator.com? At the heart of this, is interactivity.
In the olden days when web designers got paid the big bucks for throwing some static text and utterly un-dynamic images on a webpage, interactivity was unheard of. Today, almost every aspect of our digital lives is personalisable, customizable, tweakable, and fully interactive. When we go to a website and feel like it doesn’t give us an opportunity to make it our own, to experience it in some new way, or to build our own unique vision of a product, it’s a failure. If we can’t select which applications we want on our cell phones, or which songs we want on our media players, or which movies in our Queue are going to arrive next, we feel let down. Such are the demands of the web2.0 economy, the fusses of the 21st century digital generations. Over the past few months I’ve noticed a spike in exactly this kind of complaints, the likes of which can only be expected to be heard in our technology saturated, always online, western developed world. When there are parts of the world that don’t even have enough clean water to keep their citizens alive and healthy, I hear people asking, “Why isn’t my widget working?”, “Where’s the social networking gonna go?”, or “I can’t figure out how to make an event with this new Facebook!”. Now, just to be clear, I’m equally guilty of these types of grumblings as anybody else, I just think its important to get a little perspective once in awhile.
But this is cyberspace afterall, and we’re perfectly entitled to a world behooving of our Dual 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" processor lifestyle. Where this gets rich is when the demand for interactive personalization transcends the digital and arrives at our front door courtesy of UPS. Clive Thomson of Wired Magazine asks, “After years of molding the digital world to suit our style, is it any wonder we want to do the same to the physical realm?” When is building your dream house in the Sims not enough? What if you want that house? Now with sites like Etsy.com consumers are focusing on getting exactly what they want, aesthetics, beauty, and uniqueness. No longer does the term bespoke need only refer to tailored clothing, made to suit your needs. As rapid prototyping techniques such as 3-d milling and laser-cutting continue to get cheaper, science fiction dreams of Jetsons-like cornucopia machines that make you whatever you ask for, may not seem that far off. The demand is there, now its up to the services to deliver. Ok…Go!
Keep on wanting America, it just might bring our economy out of its depths of despair.