Let me start by saying that I am not a technophobe, and I certainly do not consider myself a Luddite. But in this digital age, I do have a certain fondness for all things analogue.
There are growing analogue trends in:
- photography – Lomography and Polaroid
- music – vinyl and cassette
- publishing – zines and artists’ books
- film – Super 8
- graphics – letterpress
- arts & crafts – Etsy and Craftsy
More and more of us are drawn to the charms and quirks of the analogue world, and not out of some perverse counter-culture posturing – we actually like this stuff for its own sake, and for the qualities that it represents:
In fact, these key characteristics of analogue are antonyms of most things digital….
For many people who are using analogue production processes, the medium really is the message; and what you see really is what you get, because the products are usually a true representation of the work and effort that go in to making them.
However, the appeal of analogue is not just about the format or the technology; the inherent limitations of analogue production processes lead to natural constraints which inform the content and determine the final outcome of the finished object. For example, the number of photographs an analogue camera can take at any one time is limited by the length of the roll of film; a vinyl album can carry about 22-23 minutes of music on each side; a plate used in a hand-made printing process can usually generate editions of no more than 30 before it starts to deteriorate.
There are some traditional analogue domains where the digital format does enhance the user experience e.g., digital radio (although I sometimes miss the hum and crackle of AM broadcasts); or where digital technology introduces a whole new dimension e.g., 3-D printing; or where digital can resurrect/replicate a virtual experience of analogue e.g., iOS apps that mimic classic analogue synthesizers.
On the other hand, on-line communities are moving to “analogue” events via meet-ups because being there in person offers a deeper connection. I recently attended an afternoon salon conducted by a digital media agency, because they recognize the need to interact face-to-face with customers.
I anticipate that in response to a growing sense of digital disintermediation, more of us will start to engage with and interact through analogue media. This should not be seen as an out and out rejection of digital, but more as a means to establish balance and to find a deeper level of engagement beyond the often superficial shimmer of digital gloss.
Declaration of interest: the author, under an assumed nom de musique, recently released a limited edition cassette version of his last album, available on-line and from select record stores in Melbourne