Friday October 28, 2016

The Revenge of Analog: David Sax makes the case for real things that still matter

David Sax looks at how digital technology failed to overcome 35mm film, vinyl records, notebooks, magazines and much more in his new book, 'The Revenge of Analog'

David Sax looks at how digital technology failed to overcome 35mm film, vinyl records, notebooks, magazines and much more in his new book, 'The Revenge of Analog' ( Adam Berry/Getty Images)

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The digital revolution promised efficiency, innovation and convenience but according to author David Sax, happiness isn't just a few clicks away.

In his new book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter Sax makes the case that living in a digital culture helps us appreciate our relationship with the analogue objects that hold meaning in our lives. That can mean vinyl records, photographs, magazines or old notebooks.

He points to analog goods, experiences and businesses - once thought endangered - that are now thriving, all powered by the human need to interact.

In his conversation with Day 6 host Brent Bambury, Sax explains his case in three analog objects.

David Sax The Revenge of Analog

David Sax's new book, 'The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter' is out November 8. (Public Affairs)

              
Davis Sax on why vinyl records still matters

      

"We don't need to listen to vinyl records today. We can listen to any song on a streaming service. It takes up no space and we can do it just about anywhere that we can get a signal. So why does vinyl matter?

I think vinyl is fundamentally about the emotional connection we have to things and the way we interact with them that's different from the digital equivalent. So a record is something you can feel and you can touch. There's a sense of discovery when you find a record at a garage sale or a record store [that] comes with pride. It's almost like you've hunted it down."

     

JAPAN MUSIC STORES

A customer browses through used vinyl records. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

            

"Then there's the act of listening to it. Not to get all McLuhan, but it's very involved. It involves your physical senses: touch, sight, smell and obviously the sense of sound. And when you get it on, you're not skipping to tracks, you're not flipping back and forth through your email. You're there for twenty-two-and-a-half-minutes of each side.

There's an attraction to that because you are engaging with the music in a more committed way."
 


The downside of streaming
 

"It's not one or the other. I live in both worlds so when I am walking or when I'm in my car, I'm listening to digital music but when I'm at home, in my living room, I'm listening to vinyl. It's these two experiences that are complementary to one another.

For digital, the convenience is outweighed by the ubiquitousness of it. If it's all just there and easy and accessed through a couple of taps on the screen, there's less of a reward for a lot of people."
 

The resiliency of the whiteboard


"The whiteboard doesn't hold the same emotional connection that you would have with a book or a film camera or a record player. It's a tool of productivity.

When digital tools of productivity came along, things like powerpoint or email or smartboards, they were said to revolutionize work and education. I spoke to people who sold these smartboards and they told me that teachers would resist. At first they thought the teachers were being Luddites but it turned out they didn't work in the same way."

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Biomedical Engineering students gathered around a whiteboard talk and laugh as they study in the Brody Learning Commons at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. ( JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images)

              
"The beauty of a whiteboard is the simplicity. You don't have to worry about a power connection or its formatting. You don't have to worry about updating the software or waiting for the computer to link up and using the right graphics.

You just take the marker and you can quickly get any idea that comes into your head you can quickly get it down without any interference."
 

The case for 35mm film cameras
 

"Film and old cameras matter because of the process. You have the imposition of limitations, for example, the cost of a roll of film and the cost of developing it. You have a lack of instant feedback like we're now used to with digital cameras. You press the shutter, it clicks and you won't know if it works until it's back from the lab."

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A Canon EOS 30 35mm format film camera and rolls of film. (ullstein bild / Getty Images)



"Then you have a limitation on the number of pictures - 24 or 36 - that you can take. Each one has to be thought out instead of being able to shoot thousands of pictures in one session like you can with a digital camera and then go back and fix it later.

It's these limitations that spurs creativity. That's why new photographers are using film and why some area going back to it. With digital you can fix anything in photoshop so it's the unique look, the imperfection that's sought after now because perfection can be achieved digitally."
 

Win a copy of the book
 

These are just three of many analog examples. Sax's book covers magazines, notebooks and board games. It also covers analog ideas, like our approach to work and school and shopping.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter hits store shelves November 8. And yes, it's also available in digital download.

We've got two REAL copies of  David's book to give away.  If you want one, e-mail us at day6@cbc.ca and tell us about an analog thing you're simply unwilling to renounce. Write Analog in the subject line and be sure to include your mailing address.