I can’t help but mourn the passing of my set of Britannicas, but I do not mourn the passing of the institution. Encyclopædias have passed their use-by-date as fitting symbols for the esteem in which we hold culture and learning. The world is changing, and books, magazines and education have to change with it. Nostalgia for obsolete publications serves us only if we use it to remind us of the things we really value, and want to take forward into our own new world.
Nostalgia is one of the defining emotions of postmodernism. It’s wired into culture so completely that its hard not to feel nostalgia for anything in the past. Nostalgia will not define the postnormal, however. We will not paint a soft amber glow around every memory, or every movie clip, or every tattered object found behind our boots in a bedroom closet. Perhaps because the world has been filled with the trash from centuries of crazed overproduction and as part of the depletion of the Earth and its resources, we will more naturally look back with a sense of resigned investigation: we perceive old objects, old memories as evidence, proof of the insane ruination of everything that sets the stage for our time.