The triumph of the small

“Rather than retreating into making or craft, we will retreat into smaller and more nuanced connections. Into quality over quantity. Into the single story over collections of stories. Into the subtle over the general.”

Sometime around 1995, we changed.

liz-danzicoWe changed because the Internet seemed to move from the unknown and unreachable to the possible. A prosumer activity to a consumer activity. It was open. It was available. And most who weren’t already there, wanted to be there for its promise. In 1995, amid my excitement over what could be digital, I was still reading two different newspapers over breakfast each morning and listening to two different public radio stations in two different parts of the house. While not efficient, the gaps and differences between the reporting taught me about opinion. About choice. About editorial decision-making. And about truth.

Sometime around 2007, we changed again. In 2007, the digital possible moved from our desktops to our hands. Everything was indeed possible, just as they said in 1995. While still thrilling to receive a handwritten letter or a telephone call, perhaps even more enchanting was an email. A ping straight into our everyday that did not obey the rhythms or etiquette of the postman, the workday, or dinnertime.

Meantime, sometime between then and now, people returned to craft. Amid some uncertainty out in the world, people returned to making. Retreating into handmade objects, slow processes, face-to-face friendships and pleasures, people demonstrated that while we can’t change the world through artisanal coffee, we can reinforce the human values that seemed unrequited through rectangular glass.

Sometime around 2016, we changed again. Or rather, we began a media evolution that would continue for years to come. Public blurred with private. Truth blurred with fiction. Celebrity blurred with identity. Purpose blurred with perception.

And sometime around 2017, we will change again. The new year will bring a different kind of retreat. Rather than retreating into making or craft, we will retreat into smaller and more nuanced connections. Into quality over quantity. Into the single story over collections of stories. Into the subtle over the general. Into the singular datapoint over big data. Into attention over distraction. 2017 will ring triumphs for the small and true, the richness of a single moment, and a celebration of what is, rather than what is not.

Liz Danzico is creative director for NPR and chair and cofounder of the graduate program in interaction design at the School of Visual Arts.

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