Thursday, March 4, 2010

#7. Analog or Digital?

Our Family has been traveling at the speed of sound now for about 3 weeks and we're showing no signs of slowing down. We just started the adoption process [see question #1.], we're selling our house, & I'm in the middle of getting my real estate license (school, tests, new job, etc.). So I've been asking myself this question daily, if not hourly, for as long as I can remember. Analog or Digital?

Truth: Our generation is the busiest in history. Truth: Busy-ness kills. Truth: Nobody wants to talk about the relationship between truth #1 and truth #2. The reality is that our lives are accelerating at a wreckless speed and I am not sure anyone knows how to slow it down. But we should really try to at least start the conversation.

In the musical world there's been a war going on for quite some time between digital and analog....the best example I could give would be a drum set. If you've ever heard V-drums [an electric drum set with triggers that simulate real drum sounds] and then heard real drums in comparison there is a significant difference. The V drums try very hard, using all sorts of seriously impressive technological tricks, to mirror the authenticity of wood, design, and quality hardware. But when it is all said and done...there's a reason you'll never see V-drums on stage at a Coldplay or U2 concert. TO give a bit of definition and clarity to the question [especially for all the non-musicians out there] below are some ways that the metaphorical subjects of this question are different....

economical- not necessarily synonymous with "cheap," but it certainly is in a lot of examples
consistent- like a Cracker Barrel - it's always the same.
cold- despite advancements, digital is still a jagged "photograph" of sound and not an actual representation of a real soundwave.

expensive- analog gear is old, heavy, and has a lot of moving parts. These parts are made to wear out, they often need to be replaced frequently. They also require constant maintenance to keep working properly.
inconsistent- analog gear does not always sound the same, depending on a zillion factors like temperature, humidity, and the fact that moving parts are being used to record the sound
warm- despite digital's advances, nothing sounds more human than analog. See the continued life of vinyl as a medium as an example of analog's long lifespan.

The following thoughts are from a brilliant thinker and one of my best friends Jason Harwell. He has spent the last 2 years reflecting on how the war between digital and analog is creeping into our lives:

"I see, in analog, a picture of our relationships as people (and as believers in Jesus). Like the format itself, we as people require constant maintenance and attention, capable of incredible "warmth" and love towards each other but also wildly inconsistent and different depending on the day.

And it's in those inconsistencies that we remember we need each other.

Digital is always the same; it needs nothing. Nor can it do anything beyond what it's programmed to do. Analog is different; rock n' roll, for example, was made possible by that certain sound of having an analog tube amp overdiven and pushed past it's perceived limitations. But that's where the magic is. Tape saturation, distortion, rich harmonics, feedback - these are standard items in the musical toolkit these days, and they exist because they were pushed beyond what they were supposed to do.

Try pushing digital too far and "into the red" and what do you get? Static, and not a good kind. Horrible, unmusical noise.Digital has no margin, no room to be pushed and stretched.

We - real, live human beings - are analog. We are not made of 1s and 0s. We call those things "robots." And while robots are good at building cars, they are not good at giving advice, wisdom, or a shoulder to cry on. I wouldn't want to share my life with one, and I don't really care about what happens after one breaks.

But we are also upping the digital parts of our lives. Increasingly, we are having more of our conversations behind our computer screens or while watching television or on our cell phones. We are forgetting the benefits of being together in real community, rubbing elbows and getting our hands dirty with tons of other cranky, inconsistent, and incredibly warm other live bodies.

I'm not trying to convince people to abandon technology but to encourage us all to actually think about the things we use and do every day. To consider how our relationships with each other are changing as we become more and more attached to our devices... and especially how this affects our most "analog" of relationships, our relationship to God, the Father.

For me, I'm trying to actually spend time with people in person. To maybe write some old-fashioned letters. To commit to find out what's going on with those I love by giving them a phone call or sitting in the same room with them rather than finding out about them on Facebook.

Digital is speeding our culture up, and we are developing new technologies and doing new things faster because we can without taking the time to think about whether we should or whether it's actually beneficial for us as people."

So there you have it. Slower, warmer, and more authentic? Or faster, more convenient, easier, and very, very, very, cold? Reminds me of the tortoise and the hare...remember who wins that one? Analog or Digital? What's your answer?

1 comment:

  1. Good Question!
    I have thought about this before, Analog vs. Digital and how Facebook is kinda like Digital people and how Digital people just aren't as good as Analog people.
    check this out:
    These are some artist in the Atlanta area -to contribute to the conversation.
    “Frustrated with your inability to digitize the analog world? Inside this box is the solution from the future. Welcome to your new everyday. Happy Holidays. Love Armchair Media.”
    I vote Analog.