Considering Analog Objects and Actions in Digital Times
In our increasingly digital world there are still examples of actions, processes and things that some might say are un-digitizable. Many artists stick to pens and paper. Many people still choose to read print books. Considering this: Are there objects or actions that you think will always remain analog? Oppositely, are there overlooked areas that hold great potential for digital translation, especially for startups or niche markets?
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Public unpaid question.
Maybe, it's all about the 'experience'. And what you are in the mood for.
Imagine holding a slightly worn out LP of Sgt Peppers, sliding it out, blowing the dust off, placing it on the mat and then lifting the arm and gently placing it on the grooves.
The strains of Lucy in the Sky creeps in with the slight crackle and you crank up the oversized volume dial of the old and faithful Marantz.
Now go digital: go to iTunes, find Beatles, LSD -Buy. Tap and you're on your way.
Both will take you to a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies... :)
It's comes right back to what you are feeling like...
No doubt one is easier, portable, flexible and intuitive. Both are 'touchy' and 'feely' too...
But one has romance as an ingredient, the other efficiency...
Pretty much like flipping pages of an old photo album from two decades back and swiping the same pictures on the iPad.
Touch choice :)
As someone who draws nearly every day working on design projects, analog and digital are methods I both use to achieve results depending on criteria for each project. I don't think at this point one is better than the other. And often you can't tell the difference between sketches I've done on paper and those done digitally via a Wacom tablet.
The blessing and curse working digitally is Undo (well worn Command-Z on my keyboards) which make fiddling with things infinitely possible and hence slows down the process. Paper has more of an instant feel, especially when working with ink. You have to know what you are doing and commit.
One interesting piece of software is Alchemy, an open source drawing program which doesn't come with any kind of Undo function. Using it gets close to the permanent aspects of paper, but there are still workarounds to correcting mistakes.
Being part of the last generation to basically go through art school without computers I think has aided me in being able to develop a range of ideas. That comes directly from training on working ideas out on paper. You can only show one well per sheet. I think computers aren't so good with this working process and result more constant tweaking and refinement of a single idea.
Theres something to be said about immediate tangible feedback that is hard to replicate in digital form. I approach it as "hard," not "impossible."
For example, there's the case of how to replicate the subtle tactile feedback your fingers get when reaching for the radio knob in the car without looking - the question for designers thinking about putting touchscreens into cars is whether or not that sense can be captured in any kind of haptic feedback. My guess is yes, it's just quite a bit off - as to be expected, we've focused our efforts on creating technologies that appeal to the visual sense and seem to have forgotten all the others.
There's another way to approach this question, by venturing to guess that there's nothing un-digitizable, rather there are deeply human things that will just be conveyed in different forms. For example, our need for feedback as in the above is one representation of a "deeply human thing," but another interesting manifestation comes up when you start thinking about digital books. There's a lot of social data encoded into the act of carrying a physical book. If I see you on the metro and you're carrying a book I've read, it makes me want to talk to you. And if I don't, I'm at least subtly comforted knowing that I'm in the company of someone likeminded.
That's data that's hard to encode digitally, at least through the methods we use now (ie: "putting stuff onto a screen"). That said, for ages humans have been incredibly resourceful when it comes to solving the problems of social navigation. So I don't doubt that some other interesting type of interaction will emerge to fill that void, and perhaps it's nature will be what we presently think of as "digital."
I suppose this idea is best captured by William Gibson when he says things like "one of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real."
I always go back to the study that shows that you can tell time faster on an analogue watch than you can on a digital; your brain absorbs the position of the hands more quickly than it can the actual numbers. There are a lot of things that work better in analogue: fuel and temperature gauges, anything where you want to instantly grasp proportion.
As an architect, I cannot conceive of a design without starting on my roll of canary paper or in my moleskine. Yet as a writer, I wouldn't think of starting with a pen, I work directly in digital. I don't know if it is something about design, about dealing again with proportion, or if it is just that the software isn't good enough yet, no tool (that I know of) has yet really replaced the doodle on paper.
If someone did develop such a tool (and it ain't sketchup) it would be amazing.