If there is one thing I’d like to see change in the next few years, it’s our dependency on renting digital media. We became culturally powerless as soon as we detached images, music, video, art, and interactive media from their physical form. Companies have been doing all in their power to take media out of our hands and charge us premium pay-per-view fees on everything from photos of our families to the amazing game that just came out.
If you think about it, the vast majority of our cultural nostalgia today is in a temporary, unstable, format. Not to mention, it can be permanently changed without our approval and without us even knowing. If you do not say, print your personal photos, the fact is you may never see them again. Without electricity or the consent of the computer companies that we are borrowing software from, Grandma (for instance) may be removed from all documented history permanently. That may seem dramatic but in many cases this is the reality of our modern life.
So whats a solution?
Images can be printed, Just be sure to use pigments and not dyes (which most inkjet printers use). Dyes fade fast. We can all have inexpensive books made of our photos with services that do single run printing and we should absolutely do this, it’s an easy solution.
When was the last time you saw a CD or DVD. Fact is these formats degrade rapidly over time (like dyes for printing), the same is true for magnetic tape. Some people create vinyl records which is an excellent solution for music. There are some things that could be improved such as the size and the fact that we need to flip them. This could use a good inventor to mull over.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a viable physical equivalent of vinyl records for video yet. Remarkably, there is a technology that has existed since the 1980s for putting video on vinyl records, but no-one has furthered those efforts today that I know of. In its current form, its black and white and extremely lo-fi, with mono audio. It can still be made but it's not cheap. This could use the help of a good inventor too.
2D digital art; paintings, drawings, photos, collages, etc can be made into prints in aluminum, paper, or some other material. Try getting creative and print the color separations on metal plates as etchings with a 3D printer or laser cutter and then hand pressing them. Risograph studios can also print using vivid inks, they are an unconventional solution. 3D files can be 3D printed and can also be cast in metal through professional services.
Games and interactive media are a different story. There was an IDSA student award given in around the year 2000 for a concept called SEED. The idea is that technologies be broken up into standardized lego like components. This saves on physical component waste. With a variety of processing units, modems, screens, various types of controllers, and games this could be a wonderful solution. All these parts should be physically interchangeable, yet should work regardless of being totally dependent on the other, like being connected to the internet for instance. Interactive media should come as physical cartridges, regardless if it's a game, or an art work like a holographic experience.
What are some other mediums that could use a new physical breakthrough technology? Thats the question we should all be asking ourselves now not tomorrow.