You kids! Get off my lawn!

Over at Slashdot there’s a bit of a brouhaha about some kid who made a partial list of what he considered “obsolete” skills. This list was then expanded into a wiki which has a more complete list of skills that some people don’t respect. See, for me, the real issue is two-fold: you have a child who may be very experienced with certain things in the world but who is quick to dismiss the skills and talents of the people who came before him simply because he doesn’t respect those talents. And on the other hand the rashness of his dismissal underlies a sort of mis-understanding of others that is very prevalent in this digitally divided age. The kid just doesn’t understand the skills he’s poo-pooing and their relationship to the “digital skills” he hails as their death-bringer.

There are plenty of people who use a rotary phone. Hell, the bank still tells me to hang on to the line if I have one, so I’m not ready to say that the “rotary phone skill” is obsolete. Only someone who is so mired in “high tech” that they can’t see the real lives of others would proclaim that things like rotary phone skills, vinyl records, and (of all things) darkroom photography are obsolete. In real life, the film photography classes at local colleges are full every quarter, loads of fine art photographers use film, heck, there are three pay darkrooms here in Tacoma. Don’t get me wrong, digital photography is great, 9/10 of my photos are digital. (Of course, 9/10 of my photos are also just pointless snapshots and not really “art.”) But as great as digital photography is, everywhere I go there are film development places! I think it’s a little early to proclaim the skill dead.  It takes a person who doesn’t really respect the skill to proclaim it dead.

It’s just a general mind-set of youth. Anything that dad did is dead, the stuff we’re doing is so much better! If you think about it, though, how much are the digital skills really just a replication of the analog skill? So, again the example of print making from a camera. To make a print the photographer fixes the image in his/her camera (on film or on a flash drive) this set of skills is pretty much exactly the same: expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights, understand depth of field, composition, lighting, gray card, light metering. Basically, there’s no compensation for proper exposure — I don’t care if you take 100,000 digital images if they aren’t properly exposed and composed they will turn out like crap. So, that skill isn’t going anywhere. AH HA! But what about darkroom skills? Surely pushing, pulling, burning and dodging are dead! Only anyone who doesn’t understand digital photography would say such a thing. I have always argued that photography is two different artistic skills: fixing the image and making the print. It doesn’t matter if you use film or a digital darkroom, the skill sets are the same. What the digital darkroom does is gives the artist a few more tools at their disposal. It takes a profound misunderstanding of digital and print photography to claim that the skill sets are mutually exclusive and that one has over taken the other.

Those who do not understand our history are bound to repeat it, or something.



Filed under Technology Pulse

3 responses to “Obsolete?

  1. those are more like specific tasks rather than skills as the same motor functions are involved in most of them, I mean pushing buttons and turning knobs are hardly skills.

  2. those are more like specific tasks rather than skills as the same motor functions are involved in most of them, I mean pushing buttons and turning knobs are hardly skills. Perhaps that is what is most revealing, that the people proclaiming things obsolete have an almost retarded level of appreciation for learned ability.

  3. Michelle

    I totally commensurate with the photography argument, but the obsolescent skills conversation goes far deeper than that.

    Check this article out:


    What will happen ten years from now if cursive writing is no longer a method of communication?

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