A world without print
- — 11 May, 2012 22:00
Imagine a world without print.
That’s what personal computer and printer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard did when it took all printed materials away from the small northern mid-west American town of Spring Green for seven days as part of a social experiment.
“People said they felt bleak, sad, despondent. It felt like they were living in a colourless world,” a HP spokeswoman said at HP's Global Influencer's Summit in Shanghai.
Newspapers were removed from letter boxes, books from shelves, calendars and photographs from the walls of homes and offices. Labels were peeled from products on supermarket shelves, lettering was removed from road signs and shop frontages, clothes with printed patterns were banished from people’s bodies.
The experience was chronicled in The Spring Green Experiment, a film yet to premier at the Guggenheim Museum in July. The world’s tech journalists were given a sneak peak this week.
“It’s almost impossible to function without print,” one participant said.
People scratched their heads in the supermarket, not sure which product was which.
At the Frank Lloyd Wright School students found it impossible to compare notes on a project without any common frame of reference.
“Visual is everything to me,” said one.
A primary school child wandered his home in his underwear, is printed patterned clothes removed.
“It’s like I didn’t exist without books,” complained a teenager.
The film followed a shorter HP study conducted in the US, Singapore and India where HP removed print from people’s lives for two days.
“Print has its strengths and limitations and both (print and digital methods) are necessary,” the spokeswoman said.
“Imagine labels covered and you don’t know what to expect."
One woman in Singapore, who didn’t know which perfume was which, said: “I know it sounds crazy but my perfume didn’t smell the same.”
In India, where multiple spices are part of everyday cuisine, people disengaged with noral life. “A man couldn’t wait for this experiment to be over because his mother in law wasn’t cooking. She didn’t know which spice was which.”
“The role of print is vastly underestimated. True print deprivation, getting rid of everything, proved impossible.
The experiment took an emotional tollon those who took part, HP found.
"Print is more reliable, sometimes the internet is not," the spokeswoman said. A fact all too true at the summit where wi-fi connectivity to the internet frequently crashed at the Shanghai Expo Centre due to the volume of 700 journalists trying to file stories simultaneously.
“We heard the word blind a lot.”
HP, which launched a range of 80 new computers, printers and other PC peripherals at the expo, will soon release a white paper on the project.