Monthly Archives: May 2011

My So Called Modular Life

Today I finally signed up for a car sharing service,which let’s me take out cars and return them when I want.  I texted the make and model of the car to my mom to let her know what kind of car I would be in when I go to get her from the airport later tonight, my phone alerted me that my text was the first one of the day, so my $2.00 usage daily fee had been deducted.  I went online to look for apartments, furnished is better, why move all my stuff again?

Before, I left the country 2 and 1/2 years ago, I put my life in a box at the end of Pier 17.  It’s still there.

In the meantime, though, I’ve set up my life to exist almost void of location or physical possession needs.  I can travel between continents legal to work, health insurance intact, bank accounts synced, work/ clients in both places, and tools to still say connected to my friends on a real-time basis.  I am free of any long term contracts, commitments, or largely crushing “physical stuff” baggage.  I’ve bought the majority of the clothes I have from resale shops or discounted over 50% for the last 2 years… and I still think I look pretty good.

The majority of the things I need are held in the cloud and access is afforded to me through a number of physical devices.  Before returning to San Francisco, I had accessed this information through a 3 year old computer and a “dumb” phone.  Since being back in the Bay, I carry a tablet, 2 phones (one doubles as my home stereo), and I have a desktop at work and still a 3 year old laptop at home.  But, none of these devices really matter too much to me.  It’s mearly a matter of access speed and the commoditized purchasing of physical goods as anything more than “access conduits” is rather meaningless to me.

My life is completely modular.  Its shiftable at any moment and agile in it’s entire make up.  I can decide to travel for months at a time on a few days notice.  I just put in my new SIM when I land.  And yet I still hold  a “traditional” job.  I’m a designer and consultant.  The more interesting thing, though, is I’m not nearly the only person I know with this kind of lifestyle.  Many of my friends bounce from place to place, working on projects, living in the cloud and using airplanes in ways some people used to use cars.  The “eazyjet lifestyle” has been coined in Europe and has been largely responsible for the resurgence of Berlin’s local economy and entertainment industry – something the city itself is trying to promote more.

But what does this symbolize?  In my parents generation of the 50s and 60s, the notion of a “household” was valued alongside personal ownership as a measure of privacy and social status.  The extent that avant-garde is now associated with carefully remixed and recycled materials is only one sign of the significant shifts of our generation’s struggles and opportunities.

As more and more objects become connected, our lives increasingly become void of the need for physical ownership and the definition of “new” is redefined.  Distributed access points become more entwined into our physical infrastructures and our lives and cultures transcend into the cloud.  The “stuff” just doesn’t matter anymore — because most of the important “stuff” is just bits up in the cloud and the more places and ways I can access that “stuff” the freer I am to live and move more.

The project I worked on last weekend in Jackson, MS where were we made a musical playground – starts to explore further what happens as our civic infrastructures become connected?  When the price of creating a digital structure with reused physical materials makes common ground entry points into a cloud for all members of a community equal.  And so, I start to wonder, as distributed technologies afford access points to our lives, as sharing and reuse of objects increases, as we become more rooted in our digital “stuff” and less in our physical “stuff”.  Do the little modules of each of our lives, somehow start to become intermixed more and start to distribute ideas, wealth, and education.  Do our cities become more like social networks, than vise versa?  Do we model the physical, now, more after the virtual than the reverse?  And are we in fact creating a more sustainable and scalable global culture, where my life is just one widget in a much larger application?

Bits of…