Inspiration in a Digital Age + A Digression

While sources for creative inspiration on the web abound, recently I’ve been blown away by in-person, real-life inspiring experiences. In the mad crush of grad school, moving, and planning a wedding, I’d almost forgotten how incredible art exhibits, live music, leisurely meals, and time spent quietly in nature can be.

Most adult Americans spend about 8.5 hours daily in front of screens. An additional 8 hours are spent sleeping. The remaining 7.5 hours of the day are often taken up by meetings, meals, grooming, commuting, household maintenance, and maintaining relationships. There is no natural space for a non-digital inspirational experience.

Despite this seeming death sentence for non-digital experiences, restaurants, museums, and concerts are alive and well. What if we’ve reached saturation in terms of digital interaction? What if our usage time starts to dwindle? What if it doesn’t?

Ernest Cline poses one fascinating optional reality in his novel Ready Player One, set in a world where life is lived almost entirely online. We’re not far away from having the technology to enable that type of life. In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, he asserts that “what you see is all there is.” Our beliefs, our inspiration, and our perception of the world is based on the information we have. We cannot know what we don’t know. If all we see are carefully selected, flattering, and sometimes photoshopped images and Pinterest-perfect meals, how long will it take before the altered overtakes the actual in “what we know?” If our primary mode of existence is digital, will it matter if perception skews toward the altered version of reality?

In designing experiences, digital and non-digital, we strive to evoke visceral, non-digital meaning. We ask ourselves “what does our brand smell like? what would it have for lunch?” Human centered design, a rising trend, holds fast to the humanity of the user, striving to understand the real over the rational. Inspiration from tactile experiences is embraced and encouraged. Brands like Aerie, Dove, and Debenhams are rejecting airbrushed imagery. Other services, like Meetup and Mosey, facilitate non-digital experiences. These trends indicate that digital reality hasn’t yet won.

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For now, I will continue to luxuriate in the smell and taste of delicious meals, the texture of interesting fabrics and old books, and all the sounds of live music. I will be inspired by heady discussions over wine with my friends, classmates, and my partner, living in analog.