Place of humankind in an environment of signs: remediation and/or dematerialisation of the artefact

Let’s begin with the definitions:

Remediation: ‘the action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage.’

Dematerialisation: ‘replace (physical records or certificates) with a paperless computerised system.’

Artefact: ‘an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest’

Signs are everywhere. Whether it be shop signs, directional signage, billboards and advert signs, informational signage; they’re everywhere. However, recently the traditional sign is being replaced with digital media. For example, there used to be posters on the sides of bus shelters which somebody would come and change either weekly or fortnightly. Now, they’re digital which means a saving of paper, printing and that poor mans wage.

We’re in what is known as the ‘digital era’ and dematerialisation is happening all around us. However, some things (such as the election process) are traditional and there isn’t much of a foreseeable digital future for them, yet.

The world is always moving forward through science and technology, dematerialisation is one of those changes that passed by without us realising; kind of how David Cameron became the Prime Minister. I digress.

The renovation of traditional paper advertising and signage I believe is a good thing.Digital signage is cheaper in the long run as we’re saving on paper, printing and labouring costs. It’s better for the environment as there is less paper wasted. Certain inks can not be recycled meaning a huge waste of paper therefore more trees being cut down. According to rain-tree.com, the Rain forrest used to cover over 14% of the worlds surface, at this moment in time it covers a mere 6% and it’s estimated that the remaining forrest could be gone in less than 40 years. When printing off your final project you don’t necessarily think of all the paper you’re wasting, more likely it’s ‘why isn’t this working with bleed?!?’ but when you look at the reality, we’re collectively killing our environment. First, the bees, then the rain forrest, what’s next?

The majority of the worlds population have a mobile phone, computer or tablet. The digital world is one of the highest grossing markets in the world. The move from tradition means to that of digital would be tremendous, but a lot of it has already happened without us realising. Do I think it’s worth it? Absolutely. There are many advantages digital media has over that of static signage, just a few are the impact, durability, flexibility, maintenance and fast acting response.

Now, there are certain things that will always be traditional, at least that’s how I’ve always seen them and maybe I am naive to think they will stay the same. Things such as street signs I can’t imagine changing as they’re always the same street. However, recently we’ve updated to a smart motorway. This allows the ‘motorway police’ to govern a change in speed, lane closures and informs drivers about weather. You would never be able to accomplish this with traditional signage; quite amazing really.

Now, expenses are something else. Will digital signage take over the whole industry? Not completely. Big businesses can afford the initial cost of digital signs but small businesses can’t afford to be advertising on the side of buildings or over social media ads. They’d use flyers. If anything, traditional means would just be scrapped and the old fashioned word-of-mouth would come back into use. Although, you can’t always trust that. For example, if anybody tells you to visit Goodbody’s in Plymouth, don’t listen to them. It’s a lie.

Some things cannot be replaced. They’re not going to irradiate Stonehenge or the Pyramids and replace them with a virtual reality. Although it is an interesting concept, it’s not going to happen. The first published bible will always remain the same. There may be digital copies made up of it, but the original will remain. In a world where the majority is moving forward, we cannot forget our past. Things such as gravestones and street signs are something I see still being present for a long time.

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Betsy

First year studying Graphic Design at Plymouth College of Art.

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