In this issue, as we explore what it means to ‘start-up, restart or refresh’, I couldn’t help but recall one of my favourite modern memes from the enduring British sitcom, The IT Crowd. Fans of the show will know where I’m going…
The lead protagonist, Roy, provides IT support to a large corporation from their dungeon- (and dragons) - like basement office. Every episode he proffers the same tech advice to nearly every assistance request – “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” When it comes to solving a problem, computer-related or otherwise, the complex-minded people relish in the chance to unpick the minutiae of the cause and consequence, but sometimes it’s painful to admit just how often a simple ‘hard reset’ actually works.
Despite our many technological advances, we’re not yet cyborgs roaming the streets of Gippsland, but the comparison between our digital machines and the human condition still holds significant parallels. We’re tethered to devices 24/7 and it’s changing how we live and think. Lately, more and more people are winding back their social media use to simply give their minds some space. Has there ever been a time more pertinent than now to turn it off, unplug the cord, and let life’s CPU cool down a little, before powering it back up?
We’re surrounded by tapping keys, mouse clicks, the buzz of fans and data, all the time. This always-on, always-connected state of being is tense. For our readers that work in offices, have you ever heard how eerily quiet an office feels when all the computers are shut-off completely? The silence, is deafening. It’s like being in a good parallel dimension. Let’s acknowledge this silence as some kind of ‘digital zen’, and the hard reset, for the brief moment that everything is actually switched off, gets us to this weird, yet special, quiet place.
Technology, great as it is, has provided us with billions of new ways to be distracted. Life was simpler before - the concept of the ‘hard reset’ having little resonance in a pre-digital era. Those of us pushing past 35-years-old can remember a time before household computers. A modern ‘Dark Ages’ it seems now. That’s not all. You also had to be careful of how many photos you took, so as not to waste film. (How did all those Instagram models get their sense of self-importance?). In those old days ‘Google’ was really just the index of the World Book Encyclopedia. To know the weather, you stayed quiet at the end of nightly news or listened to an AM radio station at the turn of the hour.
Even a phone call was a tenuous event. I recall vividly scraping around to find enough coins to dial mates from a payphone, only to rush the conversation before the credit ran out (damn you blinking red light!). Remember the battles of trying to hold intimate conversations with your young love interests, whilst being physically restricted by the length of the kitchen’s telephone cord as Mum made dinner within earshot? So many levels of embarrassing! (Although, thanks for being so cool about it all those years ago, Mum).
Technology and the Internet haven’t just made life easier; they’ve changed nearly everything about how we do almost anything. It’s hard to pinpoint what THE most useful thing all this tech has brought us (probably, Powerthirst). Nonetheless, we’re now deep in our digital lifestyle, which brings with it a new lexicon to draw upon in helping us define our lives and state of being. As devices become more intuitive and human-centric, the parallels between tech and us draw closer. Just as tech gets jammed and needs the occasional restart, so to do our own brains. Especially as we deal with this onslaught of distractions. We’re now so wired for updates that we can’t sit still for five seconds without stopping to look at our phones.
So, what of a ‘hard-reset’ for a region? We’ve established the similarity of digital machines and the modern human psyche, but what of Gippsland? Can we translate this concept such that it brings us new a perspective to develop a thriving local economy?
Imagine Gippsland as a vast digital switchboard. It’s been crafted over a long time. There are many connectors and the board is big. Some parts are functioning beautifully, but others could do with some maintenance. Overall, the health of the entire machine is affected by every circuit. There are a few key dials that are perfectly tuned, bringing spectacular results, but there are a collection of knobs that need some calibrating? There won’t be a new model of the deck released, so when components become obsolete we decommission the redundant parts, recycle them for a better use and install shiny new units. The truth is, the switchboard will never be complete, rather it’s always evolving to meet the changing conditions. The hard reset doesn’t happen on a board of this scale, but it’s constantly improved by hundreds of little adjustments, all slowly improving the longevity and effectiveness of the machine.
Restarts can manifest themselves in such a wide gamut of ways. Sometimes, the simplest refresh can have profound impacts. Simply rearranging the furniture in your home can make your living space feel completely refreshed.
Why is this so profound? In the context of a region, these many restarts and rebirths may not be isolated events. Every new relationship, business venture, reinvented space or re-invigorated industry brings with it that same spark of the rearranged bedroom: a new perspective on things. A new way of tackling problems. A new way of finding solutions.
It’s no coincidence that as we look back through the course of our lives, we treat major life changes as key landmarks. Significant moments, like the death of a loved one, the beginning of a relationship, changing a job or career, the starting of a new venture, all really do represent more than the sum of their parts. Often these new starts can change our lives and contribute to the growth of our character forevermore. The same can be said for a town or region; as we see major employers come and go, we’re ultimately left with no choice, but to grieve, recall the good times, and, eventually, look ahead to the future. Hopefully better for what we gained and ready to build something new and improved.
Here in Traralgon, where I’m based, sods of soil are being turned on a new cinema (if my facts are straight) — just wait to watch the crowds line up on the opening night. The town will buzz and hum with energy, and, this shiny example of a fresh start will assist in improving the lifestyle of an entire town.
Gippslandia promotes the merit of strong small businesses, vibrant streets, bustling retail and high-quality hospitality, tired buildings being reborn, empty shops getting a facelift and people taking a risk to make their dream projects come true. This makes for a community and economy that’s diverse, dynamic and exciting. We’d all like our friends and neighbours with more money in their pockets.
“The truth is, the switchboard will never be complete, rather it’s always evolving to meet the changing conditions.”
Given the announcement of Target’s closure in Morwell and the reality of large players consistently winding back their operations in our postcodes, let's champion the small, local operations we’d love to see replace them, ensuring minimal gaps in the workforce left by the exiting giants.
Your view of Gippsland’s current situations is bound to be unique; informed by your personal experiences. The digital life that now consumes us may offer some valuable metaphors from which we develop an optimistic new path forward. When the gauges on the deck glow red and the emergency lights pop on, don’t let the glitches rock your world. Stay calm. Look to the horizon. Grab the phone, call IT, and heed the wise words of our man Roy: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” It could be that a reset is what was needed all along.