Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What's Next? The Upcoming Digital Paradigm

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Physical media is dead. It's wasteful, impractical, and losing traction day by day. So why do people continue to hold onto their vinyl collections? Is it a generation thing? Or is there something about digital media that simply doesn't "feel the same"?

Why do dated digital photos elicit such a poor emotion response compared to photos made from film? Do we value it less because it requires less work? Are we exposed to so much of it these days that we start to care less? Is if Facebook's fault? Are memories more or less accessible now that it's so easy to record our lives?

Gut reaction. Two words. Tangibility and sacrifice. Tangibility speaks for itself. I believe the simple act of owning a physical object easily builds the relationship of collectivism between owner and artifact. Vinyls, CDs, DVDs, and physical photo albums made this tangible collectivism easily approachable for the mainstream consumer. When it all went digital, the shit hit the fan. People don't view or understand digital artifacts the same way as real items in the world. Why?

In fact, it's quite simple. We make space for the things we cherish. If something takes up room in our world, it probably has more value to us than something that doesn't. Let's take for example: food. Food takes up room. A lot of it. But does so in a way that it stays localized to the refrigerator (well, for most of us clean folks anyway). Then, there are the chefs. For chefs, food is their world. They'd gladly tear down a wall for more space for food preparation and storage. Now, picture food that can get compressed into miniature balls, where you can easily fit a year's worth of meals into a small container, with no refrigeration needed. Would food be valued the same then? Probably not. Enthusiasts, my guess, would probably still try buy all-natural organic. You know, because they want to illustrate to others how much they love (and appreciate) food.

The same metaphor works for compressed audio and other digital media today. Because everything can be crammed into 1TB hard drives, we naturally feel our music, photos, and movies innately have less value because they're so easily transportable. Replicable. Replaceable. Enthusiasts will still vie for vinyl because it's the "original." It's what's "the best."

I'd like to see where this notion of "best" comes from. Is it good marketing? Tradition? Technology fads that come and go very much like fashion? How does one in the media production sector secure a strategic advantage in today's digital age where the medium is viewed as an innately inferior, continuously dated, and more importantly, lacking of an emotional response with the people collecting them?

Luckily, I've got an entire school year to attack this messy-ass problem space of a design situation. I'm not here to save the RIAA. I'm not here to help the MPAA make more 3D movies. I want to recreate that personal experience and joy of collecting the music, photos, and movies we love. These digital records of our lives, despite how fragile and easily replaceable they are, and they exist as a reflection of how we think, live, and understand the world around us. I feel it's important that we never forget that.

For the time being, please enjoy the music.

Lotte Kestner - Temperature (MP3)
Sunday Girl - Self Control (Azari & III Remix) (MP3)


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