Nostalgia can be considered one of the most amazing subset of a living mind – a nature that can evoke a flood of memories, simultaneously with a conglomerate of emotions. The two Greek roots nostos (returning home) and algia (longing) gave nostalgia an initial meaning of “a longing for home”. However, the paradigm of nostalgia has shifted paradoxically when it took a journey through a long history.
In answering the Furby’s question, well, I didn’t actually know what nostalgia is. I later found out through the collaborative project of MAIM year 1.
For this project, we were asked to develop a critical analysis of the given discourse and turn it into foresight strategies, which will be presented as two future scenarios.
Our methodologies are:
1.Examining history of nostalgia, its origin and how the paradigm has changed up until now.
2.Exploring a wide range of sources that shape people’s perspective and structure their practices around nostalgia
3. Breaking down our information into groups within the network of internal and external factors.
As shown in the diagram, external factors such as technology, culture and society influence our thoughts, memories, beliefs, and behaviours, which are the internal factors. At the same time, these nostalgic internal factors are framing the way external factors transform. This network of discourse provided us insights, which brought about understanding of the drivers of changes and imply future scenarios.
Now, before I show you some part of my writing work about Nostalgia and two potential scenarios, let’s spend 1 minute diving into our nostalgic legacy. Here is an opening video of our presentation.
The end of the video shows the definition of nostalgia, which is what we came up once completing a group research. But after I explored further independently and wrote an essay, I crafted a slightly different version.
Originated from medical background, nostalgia has switched its role from fatal sickness to powerful therapy over the past four centuries. It began in the middle of the battlefield, survived through the industrialised society, and then walked in the spotlight of consumerism.
Back in 1688, nostalgia first introduced by a Swiss doctor, Johnnes Hofer to name “the cerebral disease” found in a Basel student from Bern who was suffering from a series of insomnia, anxiety, anorexia, and miserably strong yearning for home (Wildschut et al., 2006). Nostalgia was quickly discovered across Europe throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, usually by the army doctors and in people who worked in a military service. The disease could be cured in many cases by several proposed treatment including a return trip to a homeland, however, there were still suicides and crimes committed in nostalgia’s name. By the 19th century, nostalgia became “an incurable condition”, regarded as a psychological disorder – a form of melancholia or depression (McCann, 1994; Rosen, 1975). It was psychiatry that brought about this change and it was noted (Boym, 2007) that the rapid pace of industrialisation drove people nostalgic for the slower rhythms of the past. It was not until the 20th century, when the sociological world conducted the shift. Davis (1979) showed that participants associated nostalgia with good old days and healthy emotions more than a sickness. Nostalgia featured a positive quality for the first time and this quality has improved gradually until the 21th century.
Contemporary Nostalgia is seen as a treatment – a defense mechanism for the fast moving millennium world according to Boym (2007). Even better, it is reported (Vatner, 2005) being one of the therapies for Alzheirmer and Holocaust survivors. Marketers also widely enjoy the promised benefits of nostalgia. “Advertising for products may consciously evoke past memories to create positive affective responses” (William & Susan, 1991). To conclude the contemporary definition of nostalgia, it is aware that the essence of “a longing for home” is still valid. However, the concept of “home” has been changing over a long history. Geographical home in the past was hard to go back but technology has made a lot of the seemingly impossibilities possible. The only thing remains known for the inability to return but is embedded like home in the human mind is “time”. As Waters (2013) put it, “Time makes emigrants for us all”. When people are aging, they have been automatically dispatched by an emigration agency without the visa to return”. From the paradigm in today’s society, I would sum it all up here.
Nostalgia is indeed a longing for an irreversible time – an invisible home in the past where we belong.
Progress on Nostalgia
Humankind is struggling to keep pace with advanced technology. The world in the next five to twenty years will soon turn to response the customers of tomorrow; the generation Z. Prensky (2001) divided people into two groups: digital natives and digital immigrants. The former is people born with the new digital culture while the latter is those evacuated from the analog era. According to Joy (2012), “Digital natives is emerging as the globe’s dominant demographic while digital immigrant becomes a relic of a previous time”. Nostalgia can be a different creature to those growing up recording their lives online (Baxter, 2013). When the Internet of things owns the stage, two potential opposite scenarios are projected for the future nostalgia – rewind to pick up missing values or fast-forward with the technology.
Scenario 1: Unplugged -within the five years from now, there will be a “Stone Age Day” celebrating the pure values of human beings before the approach of digital world. It is generally aware that technology though improves our lives substantially, also unconsciously kills some values. “We sacrifice conversation in order to create connection”, stated Sherry Turkle at Ted Talks (2012) addressing the problem brought by technology. Turkle underlined that it is time to figure out how technology can refund us the ‘real’ lives, and it is not only her who feel the need to do so. Snapchat is a temporary-messaging mobile application, which became popular for its spontaneous communication (Rosen, 2013). The Nintendo’s Wii derived from the concept of looking back to the play culture, physical space and family time (Ohannessian, 2012). There are rising trends in favour of privacy, real relationship and offline activities from the former simple life. The “Stone Age Day” will summon the values we should not let vanish in the digital space and inspire us to innovate technology as a tool to strengthen those values, not to kill them.
Scenario 2: iRemember – from twelve to twenty years from now, there will be a nostalgia on-demand. Every moment of people lives can be recorded, re-played whenever they want and re-live wherever they desire. For this scenario, nostalgia becomes co-dependent with technology. As there is no way to escape it, it is best to take advantages of it. “Any slowdown in the digital age is a myth, as innovation will only press forward” (Prensky to Joy, 2012). There is a sign in supporting the possibility of this foresight. It is reported (Cohen, 2013) that the silicon chips, which can duplicate the brain neurons by retrieving a long-term memory, was introduced by Berger the biomedical engineer and neuroscientist and successfully tested with animals. Google’s computing resources, Deep-learning software, emphasizes the potentiality of artificial intelligence to mimic sounds, images and others. In due course, technology will be able to simulate virtual memory through all five-sense experiences. It will not only be a virtual reality, but a mixed reality. Such realistic nostalgia can be prospective among entertainment and experiential design, as well as a lot of possible businesses.
However, with this invasion to the charm of nostalgic memories, can nostalgia keep the same values? Are we still longing for an irreversible time if we can push replay button? Let it be a food for thought for this scenario.
The manifestation of nostalgia will be around as long as there are memories and the reversibility of time cannot escape the pages of science fiction. In 1846, Dupré the French doctor predicted that nostalgia would soon die out because the advanced technology would facilitate distant communication (Waters, 2013). So far, it has been proved that the opposite is true.
Nostalgia and technology will be inseparable but it can cooperate in different ways. It is a gift of humankind to possess such an amazing tool for reflecting rearward while we drives forward. Nostalgia helps us go on a safe journey and make sure that we don’t accidentally drop any precious things behind and lost them forever.
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Boym, S. (2007) Nostalgia and its Discontents. [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.iasc-culture.org/eNews/2007_10/9.2CBoym.pdf> [Accessed 6 November 2013]
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Davis, F. (1979) Yearning for yesterday: A sociology of nostalgia. New York: Free Press.
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Waters, L. (2013) The Nostalgia Factory: memory, time and aging. Translated from the Dutch by Douwe Draaisma. Cornwall: TJ International.
Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2006) Nostagia: content, triggers, functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. vol. 91, No. 5, pp. 975-993.