Some of the digital media cheerleaders out there are so eager to dethrone “old media” and the MSM, but sometimes I worry their plans will neither cure the disease or save the patient, just replace it with something different and maybe worse in some regards.
In short, despite the fact I’ve made a living in digital media for over a dozen years and consider it my calling, I hope many traditional forms of “old media” won’t go away anytime soon or be displaced by new media.
Books, for example. Love them. Not just the narrative form, the linear story, the artful prose, but the form factor of paper and pages and spines and the feel of them and the portability. They just work, have for hundreds of years, I’m not sure whether hyperlinks or digitization would add anything, and I know they might take away a lot. I can’t imagine, ever, lying in bed and reading a book on an ereader.
Newspapers, as another example. That business, which employed and employs my father for nearly five decades now, put food on our table when I was a kid and helped put me through college. So there is that bias, yes. But also the depth, the lack of interruption, the form factor again — whether spreading the paper over the table next to my coffee at breakfast, or reading a redtop, or the Independent, or the Guardian berliner format on the tube, or sitting in a cafe somewhere in the sun parsing through the International Herald Tribune (so snotty sounding, yes, but so pleasing). No distracting hyperlinks, or e-mail chimes, or other nonsense that results in twitching, not reading. I like the purity of the newspaper experience — reading, thinking, reading some more.
An aside at this point: I go to Ritual in San Francisco to meet friends now and again, and it’s full of people with laptops open cranking on the free wifi. I joked to my friend the other day: “They should put some cubes in here.” Sure, I like my wifi in a coffee house now and again. But at Ritual, it’s always on: few folks, sometime none, have a newspaper or a book there. That makes me a bit sad, I think they’re all missing something really.
Films, on the screen, in a movie theater. Don’t care if it’s digital or analog, but the traditional experience of seeing a movie with a hundred other people, the community of our common laughter or suppressed gasps. That is nice, it feels human and connected and vibrant in a way that sitting in front of a tv doesn’t. I don’t ever want that to go away.
I go back and forth on theater. Yes, when great, which is really just in New York or LA or London best of all. But elsewhere?
Most television and music I’m happy to consume in more digital forms, be it DVDs or just bits on an iPod or over IP.
Cinemas, books, newspapers — I like them analog, I hope they stay that way.