What's Next? The Upcoming Digital Paradigm

What's Next? The Upcoming Digital Paradigm

Anthony Nguyen
Sep 8, 2010

Physical media is dead. It's wasteful, impractical, and losing traction day by day. So why do people continue to hold onto their vinyl collections? Is it a generation thing? Or is there something about digital media that simply doesn't "feel the same"? Our thoughts on digital media's future, after the jump.

Why do dated digital photos elicit such a poor emotion response compared to photos made from film? Do we value it less because it requires less work? Are we exposed to so much of it these days that we start to care less? Is if Facebook's fault? Are memories more or less accessible now that it's so easy to record our lives?

Gut reaction. Two words. Tangibility and sacrifice. Tangibility speaks for itself. I believe the simple act of owning a physical object easily builds the relationship of collectivism between owner and artifact. Vinyls, CDs, DVDs, and physical photo albums made this tangible collectivism easily approachable for the mainstream consumer. When it all went digital, the s#*t hit the fan. People don't view or understand digital artifacts the same way as real items in the world. Why?

My first MP3 player. This purchase and photo meant a lot to me. It honestly belongs in a frame, but instead it sits in a buried folder somewhere on my hard drive.

In fact, it's quite simple. We make space for the things we cherish. If something takes up room in our world, it probably has more value to us than something that doesn't. Let's take for example: food. Food takes up room. A lot of it. But does so in a way that it stays localized to the refrigerator (well, for most of us clean folks anyway). Then, there are the chefs. For chefs, food is their world. They'd gladly tear down a wall for more space for food preparation and storage. Now, picture food that can get compressed into miniature balls, where you can easily fit a year's worth of meals into a small container, with no refrigeration needed. Would food be valued the same then? Probably not. Enthusiasts, my guess, would probably still try buy all-natural organic. You know, because they want to illustrate to others how much they love (and appreciate) food.

The same metaphor works for compressed audio and other digital media today. Because everything can be crammed into 1TB hard drives, we naturally feel our music, photos, and movies innately have less value because they're so easily transportable. Replicable. Replaceable. Enthusiasts will still vie for vinyl because it's the "original." It's what's "the best."

I'd like to see where this notion of "best" comes from. Is it good marketing? Tradition? Technology fads that come and go very much like fashion? How does one in the media production sector secure a strategic advantage in today's digital age where the medium is viewed as an innately inferior, continuously dated, and more importantly, lacking of an emotional response with the people collecting them?

Honestly, it's hard for us to say (you weren't expecting us to solve this puzzle overnight, were you?). In fact, the RIAA and MPAA have been in trouble for quite some time now ever since the broadband internet took off. People are looking for convenience and the media companies are having a hard time creating that "value" people once saw in old media. We think they've got a long road ahead of them if they don't figure out how to cater to people's desire for collecting, even if it means abandoning their dated business model entirely.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to have that same intimate relationship with our media without having to resort in going the reverse direction (printing out our photos, burning CDs, other non-green and dated solutions...)? Is there any hope for the RIAA and MPAA to get a grasp on consumers with the ubiquity of the Internet?

[Image: SoftspokenMC with CC license, Comic via Toothpaste for Dinner]

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