When Digital met Physical
Last week we celebrated my son's 21st and also a dear aunt's 80th birthdays. To mark these momentous occasions I decided to collate photo books for each of them, involving a marriage of the physical and digital world. A planned couple of hours at the weekend turned into a full day's activity, as I couldn't resist the temptation of turning the pages of those treasured old photos, some carefully catalogued, others piled into boxes, no doubt discarded with a 'to do sometime' intention of sorting out.
Sometime around 2003 the glossy prints; in eagerly awaited packs of 24 or 36, were replaced with digital camera downloads onto a variety of PC's, laptops, or sometimes not at all; from a series of phones. In the transition from print to digital there was a messy join of several years, before the cloud descended giving much needed reassurance that all was not lost when devices were updated, broken or in my case lost. The reassuring passive collection of memories in the cloud outweighed any reservations I may have had about using the technology. What to do about the gap, post print and pre-cloud however was more problematic, and here I had to rely on better organised family members to fill in the missing pieces.
Sharing memories is one of those things that makes us who we are; and I found myself bizarrely taking photos of the physical photos and whatsapping them onto friends; a kind of alternative face book for a dogged non adopter of this channel.
Selections complete, I headed to the local store where the promise of a complete service was more appealing than my wrestling with our mediocre scanner to produce a uniform file. Murphy's law however prevailed; the store scanner was running slow and the promise of same day was actually next day; in fact longer because I had now just missed the deadline for next day. I decided that the most effective way to incorporate the physical prints was simply to take photos of them; creating a single file on the iPhone thus saving valuable time. An added benefit of course is that old photos can be edited to cut out unwanted backgrounds and of course brightened to look more attractive. Avid photographers will be recoiling in horror at this sacrilege of their art of photography; however time was of the essence.
Back to Murphy's law; for reasons unknown to me, my iPhone was no longer displaying 'camera roll' having changed to another description which the photo machine didn't recognise. Fortunately a digitally native assistant, far more expert than me and with endless patience, guided me through the process.
The end results were worth the effort, and in fact the time spent on my customer journey wasn't unpleasant, despite the minor setbacks. Critically I was in control of the process, with options to choose the best fit. It did make me think however, that many of the frustrations we experience when dealing with organisations are due to the difficult transition from the old world to the digital; where promises of seamless delivery are in fact hampered by processes and technologies that are simply not compatible, and indeed by our reluctance to dispel with structures and processes that have been superseded.
It also highlighted to me that the merging of old and new can be a happy one where the correct digital application doesn't have to replace but simply shine a new light on things that we treasure. And of course, as ever a vote of confidence for the role of caring humans, great people can overcome technological hitches; this simply can't happen the other way around.