Not always is digital better. Although interacting with media, data, and devices in the digital domain has many advantages, we are still in an analogue world. Humans continue to use their hands to touch, ears to hear, and eyes to view objects, all of which are unmistakably (and exquisitely) analogue receiving mechanisms.
In reality, none of our interactions with these experiences truly take place in the digital realm, despite the fact that a growing number of our daily encounters may originate from or otherwise exist in digital form. Instead, all of these experiences take place in an exceptionally high-resolution analogue realm, despite how simple it is to ignore this (otherwise known as the real world).
As our environment gets increasingly computerised, it may seem strange and even stupid to draw attention to this, but it’s important to do so. It’s important to note that not all technologically induced pendulums of change swing in favour of the digital. Logically, technology should begin to resemble analogue systems more and more as it develops.
Many people have rediscovered and revived older analogue technologies like printed books, vinyl recordings, and musical instruments because they offer a tactile physical experience that an entirely digital world has begun to erase.
Looking at the history of many advancements in fields ranging from computing to media and beyond, you’ll see that the progression began with analogue attempts to generate or replicate specific forms of content or other types of information. However, many of these early analogue attempts had major limits, leading to the development of technology for creating, editing, and manipulating this type of data in digital form for everything from computer files to audio and beyond.
We have witnessed the development of digital files over the previous few decades and the immense advantages that becoming digital has brought regarding management, analysis, and production. However, we are already beginning to recognise the limitations that even digital technology may have regarding entertainment material and specific kinds of information. It’s difficult to understand how adding more digital bits to music, picture, and videos can offer many advantages in the actual world, for instance.
Many individuals have also observed — or, to be exact, missed — the type of physical contact that humans inherently seek as a part of their fundamental existence along this road of technological growth. As a result, previous analogue technologies have been rediscovered and revived. These technologies offer a tactile physical feel that an entirely digital world has begun to erase.
The finest illustration is undoubtedly the recent rise in popularity of vinyl records and turntables, which has extended to Gen-Z teenagers and millennials. I should be able to recall and recognise the possibilities of an analogue audio experience as someone old enough to own a vintage vinyl collection. However, it’s simple to forget how amazing the audio quality of a solid turntable and sound system can be after decades of digital bombardment. It took a recent event I attended where someone was spinning vinyl for me to be reminded of how great it might still sound.
There has also been a change in printed books, of all things. Just last week, news broke that printed books were beginning to experience gains once more after years of predictions about the demise of print. In contrast, e-book readers and sales were on the decline. However, it’s intriguing to observe that more and more people desire to appreciate the analogue tactile experience that reading a paper book gives them. Admittedly, a great deal of ground was lost here.
Beyond these specific instances, individuals continue to place great importance on the feel, touch, and sensation of using digital gadgets. It still matters how a gadget feels in your hands and how typing on a laptop’s keyboard feels. To enhance the “realism” of the experience they provide, improvements in virtual reality and augmented reality will increasingly rely on some sort of haptic, touch-based input. A large trend in some older, “analogue-style” antique game systems has also recently emerged.
To increase the “realism” of the experience they provide, virtual and augmented reality developments will increasingly rely on tactile, touch-based input.
As our digital gadgets become the standard instruments of our era, there is much to be said about the quality of the tactile experience they may offer. Musicians have always been preoccupied with the feel and touch of specific instruments. Additionally, one of the significant developments in musical instruments over the past several years has been the enormous resurgence in the popularity of knob-based, physically controlled analogue synthesisers.
Beyond only technology, there is also the ongoing discussion of shifting more of our interpersonal communications back to analogue. There is rising interest and excitement among individuals of all ages for reducing our digital time and putting more emphasis on person-to-person analogue relationships after overdosing on exclusively digital contacts.
Even if it could be entertaining and nostalgic, we won’t be returning to an era of analogue technology. However, as digital technology develops, it makes sense for technology-based products and experiences to attempt to replicate some of the distinctively tactile qualities, feel, and value exclusive to analogue.