Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Signs Of The Times

Nostalgia is a very powerful element in art. By reminding us of something with which we had strong association in the past, an artist can instantly bind with the audience. But the techniques (or rather effects) used to bring nostalgia have varied a lot over the years. Quite predictably so, as they have to spark the minds of people who once associated themselves with these things but today's world does not provide enough exposure to these things, making the association nostalgic.

Some of the effects that are currently used for nostalgia are:
1) Black&White/Sepia tone in photography.
2) Gramophone "hiss" and static for audio.
3) Image distortion and dislocation/streaks across screen/editing errors/blanking out/etc for video.

These effects remain quite powerful even today, thanks to the large population that associates with the period these things were common. However, the industry will soon need to invent new things that the younger generation needs association with. But with the great advances in technology, do we still have things 'bad' enough that they will spark the minds of this generation in years to come?

This got me thinking: What are the things that are common in today's time that will bring nostalgic effect 20 years later? Quite surprisingly, the list turned out to be longer that I had expected. Here's my list:

1) Two-dimensional cartoon (the ones used in most mainstream cartoons like Tom and Jerry) as against the three-dimensional/realistic one (like the ones used in movies like Wall-E). Two-dimensional cartoon are pretty common even today. Start any cartoon show and you will find that most of them are still 2D. This will surely change, and thus, 2D cartoons will bring nostalgic effect. On a side note, I don't think 2D cinema (as against 3D, that is watched using special glasses) will ever go out of fashion. This will remain true irrespective of the fact that future will bring many more 3D movies, techniques will improve and so will the user experience. Just like videography didn't kill photography, 2D movies are here to stay.
2) The characteristic movie loading animation as seen on online video sharing sites like YouTube. We all have seen and experienced the revolving circle and spokes while trying to load long videos. Future will surely see these being used for nostalgic effects even if the video loads in an instant.
3) Fonts. Without question, the fonts of our times will have nostalgic effect ones they go 'out of fashion'. I don't know which it will be: Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Courier New or Comic Sans? I just hope it isn't Comic Sans. I would love to see it around forever.
4) Microphone echo. Unfortunately this is one of the few things that are actually broken in today's world. Microphone's shrilling echo is something that needs to be buried deep into the past, and I am not sure whether I will enjoy the nostalgic effect 20 years on.
5) Command prompt/DOS mode. I am not very sure of this one, but it can really become a big nostalgic effect if the Linux community decides to 'move on' with better stuff. If they choose to stay geeky, the future will be less colorful and less nostalgic. I think they should rise to the occasion for the greater good of human race's future.
6) Windows 9x style windows and software. Vista/OS X have already changed it for good but they still haunt are recent past and are in our short-term memory.
7) Faded/yellowing paper. Most mainstreams publications don't have this problem, but if you are used to buying Rs. 20 detective novels (made from 100% recycled paper) from stalls in railway stations, you know what I mean.

Let me know your opinions on it, and suggestions for addition to this list.