“We have explored digital in great depth, but it doesn’t actually work”, says Sheila Molnar, the managing director of Private Eye in a recent issue of the Weekend FT. There is no doubt that Private Eye’s format, including many small nuggets, lends itself naturally to print and, in terms of potential competition, no online start-up has come close to replicating the magazine’s chutzpah. It would seem that the magazine’s online foray into the world of the internet, publishing an interactive map in September, was a unique move deliberately designed to take advantage of the attributes of the medium. It worked! It presented complex information in a way that mere text could not and demonstrates that selective use of the digital resource can be fully justified to enhance an analogue argument.
As a communications tool the internet has much to recommend it but, if its limitations as well as its benefits fail to be recognised, we run the risk of losing the quality of our interpersonal exchanges. An example of the crass misuse of digital technology was found by researchers examining the results of computer-assisted programs to access cognitive behavioural therapy. The BMJ published figures which showed that the programmes had achieved little or no benefit. It also said that patients were unwilling to engage in therapy on-line. If current trends persist they will have no alternative options (choices?) in future.
In terms of quality of life do you really wish to forgo the tactile experience of reading a morning newspaper or settling down with a good book in the sunlight? Have you already forgotten the pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter from a friend? Or have you already succumbed to the herd expediency of the internet? Speed-reading edited news bulletins, scrolling through back-projected pages of a novel, experiencing the frustration of receiving illiterate e-mails full of ‘text-speak’’? The alternative option is to be selective or forfeit your quality of life. You choose!