The curious case of technology and nostalgia

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It has often been asked, “what is this obsession for technology,” or, “what is this nostalgia over technology.” The latter was recently asked by a gentleman on the interweb, who was lamenting over the fact that his grandson wanted the upcoming (new) Nokia 3310 for his birthday. The writer’s concerns, although satirical, were very simple – the child would take to social media to lament over the shortcomings of the feature phone.

We will not disagree with that concern at all. We have said it ourselves, that the Nokia 3310’s new iteration does not make sense in the world it’s going to be launched into. It is not future proof, and definitely not as functional as one would expect it to be. Sure, you can make phonecalls, send texts and play Snake on the phone that supports only 2G (ironic, because it was Nokia which made extensive presentations at the same MWC on 5G technology). The main reason for buying it would be having a sense of nostalgia, much like wearing bell-bottomed jeans, driving a Volkswagen Beetle or hanging a big ‘peace’ pendant down your neck.

What we do not agree with, is the dissing of nostalgia for technology, which happens quite a lot over the internet. Why exactly, you ask?

History for the future
Nostalgia for technology is needed for technology to move forward. It is not a secret that to move forward, one must learn from the past. There are countless examples of what might work and what might not. For instance, just stuffing exemplary hardware into a platform which has outdated software or an app-starved ecosystem does not work. Brand names alone will not help these devices sell. At the most, they might become super-niche favourites, but that’s about it. Case in point, the Nokia PureView 808 and the Nokia Lumia 1020, both of which packed extremely amazing cameras but suffered from the aforementioned deficiencies.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 packed amazing camera tech, but fell under the app-deficient Windows Phone ecosystem.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 packed amazing camera tech, but fell under the app-deficient Windows Phone ecosystem.

Tech nostalgia also explains how a device, which at the point of launch, feels ahead of its time, but becomes a sorely missed device when its gone. The Nokia NGage and the NGage QD were phones that were aimed specifically at gamers. Their cult status with users has always reminded smartphone makers and users how important gaming is to this industry. While a phone with physical gaming controls may not be feasible right now, as mechanical controls will add weight, drain battery faster and increase the form factor, it will definitely make users line-up for it at stores.

Nostalgia is also a very strong tool to move units as well. The reason why Motorola could make a strong comeback with the first Moto G was because of a good value for money proposition. However, it also offered a healthy nostalgic value for many users. One simply cannot ignore the brand recall value. If BlackBerry manages to sell any units in these times, it’s because many users are nostalgic about their first business phones (security and functionality included) and the comfort that a physical QWERTY keyboard offered.

Tech creates nostalgia
 Technology is a big enabler of nostalgia. Imagine this – for every ‘vintage’ trend to start trending again, it needs to pop on someone’s social media feed first. Technology, smartphones and social media to be specific, have a very important role to play in bringing many trends back. Chokers, velvet, thigh-high boots, polka dots, red lip colour, flared pants, jet-straight hair, big and scruffy beards, and all such trends sell popularly and that’s because they’re marketed on social media as nostalgia.

social_icons
Social media is a great enabler of nostalgia.

This marketing of nostalgia on social media is not just restricted to fashion trends. The revival of Café Racer culture, hot-rod cars and vintage motorsport events such as flat-track racing have caught up around the world thanks to technology. Social media is such an enabler of technology that it has created employment and livelihood opportunities around the world. Young automobile mechanics from around the world are picking up vintage cars and bikes, restoring them and creating not just a business, but nostalgia as well. A mechanic in Indonesia or India, countries which had nothing to do with the Café Racer or Chopper movement are creating custom designs after being inspired by builders in Europe or USA. And the customers are buying these because of, well, the same reasons.

Nostalgia is a strong emotion. And technology enables it to grow. The author of the article (that prompted us to write this one) has suggested how it would be better to have nostalgic rants about his favourite rosemilk. Well, we don’t see why it shouldn’t happen – a few Facebook pages or groups must exist regaling this beverage. By simply posting a picture of a glass of the said rosemilk and hashtagging it thus will definitely help the author connect with other rosemilk enthusiasts from around the country (or perhaps the world) and evoke deep conversations. After all, isn’t feeling it what nostalgia is all about?