The Analog Embrace: How Some Experiences Are Surviving the Digital Age

Zeros and ones were promised as the future, with digital media taking the lead in more ways than one. But the transition hasn’t been the smoothest, and in some situations customers are returning to analog experiences in search of something more tangible.

Journalist David Sax and author of The Analog’s Revenge: Real Things and Why They MatterShe explains that pushback is inevitable. “We are analog beings in an analog world,” he summarizes. “The digital world simulates that in one way or another.”

The response to this simulation varies from medium to medium. Sax’s book describes the revival of analog technologies. “Physical goods, turntables and notebooks have been disrupted by alternatives such as music streaming, Amazon or software,” he explains. “But analog media was growing just as these technologies were at their peak. For example, vinyl was booming when Spotify was at its peak.”

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It’s not a half-baked theory, there are entirely new companies pursuing the desire for analog experiences. Others have to cope with higher demand.

For example, United Record Pressing, the largest record pressing plant in the United States since 1949, had to move to a larger facility in 2017 to meet increased demand. Even Jack White, frontman of the White Stripes, started Third Man Pressing, helping to serve record-breaking presses in the US as well.

Elsewhere, the industry is finding new ways to accommodate increased interest in physical media, even embracing and recording digital soundtracks. Data Disc was founded in 2015 as a record label dedicated solely to releasing video game soundtracks on vinyl. They have partnered with Sega, Capcom, Konami and SNK.

Jamie Crook, founder of Data Disc, explains his view: “I don’t really know where vinyl’s current growth is coming from, but it’s been gradual over many years, thanks largely to all the indie labels that have stuck with the format alive in the dark years It would be misleading to say there was a sudden boom, but I’d say interest has grown more rapidly since around 2010.”

That led to Data Disc, “It just seemed like an obvious market to us, especially since movie soundtracks have been rapidly gaining popularity since around 2012. We have our own mastering and recording studio here in London and one member of our team also has a background in product licensing so we were already set for this type of venture. To this day we do almost everything in-house.”

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Since the team uses their own mastering studio, they can take their time with the mastering.

For some, the process of taking a digitized soundtrack from a video game and then remastering it for an analog format may seem counterintuitive. What’s the point?

“When a record is well mastered and carefully pressed, it can be an extremely satisfying experience that offers a different listening experience than a digital download,” says Crooks. “However, neither format is “better” than the other, they are just different.

Likewise, a high-quality lossless download is just as satisfying in its own way. When it comes to data discs, we have a surprisingly broad customer base, and our customers buy records for many different reasons, all of which are equally valid. There really is no one-size-fits-all answer as to why people will be buying records in 2022.”

Some say vinyl sounds warmer and connects better with the listener, while others say the physical media is a way to support their favorite artists, create a collection, or have an actual item that isn’t from an online service can be deleted. There are theories about how physical objects create powerful and long-lasting memories, and analog media can easily convey nostalgia or sentimental memories. Even CDs have seen a surge in sales lately.

.img or Instant Memory Generator?

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Audio isn’t the only thing enjoying some kind of resurgence after a peak in digitization. The photography market has changed a lot in recent years as smartphones are now equipped with impressive camera sensors and are found in pockets around the world. But when it comes to preserving memories, instant cameras are still relevant.

Instant cameras were a product of what seemed like a bygone era. Snapping a photo and getting a printed copy of it seconds later was all the rage back then, but eventually digital cameras came onto the scene and film photography quickly felt outdated.

But since then, Fujifilm’s Instax format for instant photos has reignited interest in analog photography. Polaroid is also back after The Impossible Project acquired the brand and its original intellectual property in 2017. It also has new cameras on offer for photographers looking for the joy and novelty of physical photos.

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It’s hard to tell if instant photos are a fad. In 2004, Fujifilm sold just 100,000 cameras for the full year, but in 2016 Fujifilm reported sales of 5 million units. That number has since leveled off, with the camera company announcing 3.5 million sales in 2019, but no matter how you look at it, that’s impressive for a form of photography that was about to be killed off when digital cameras came along.

“In a world where most pictures are taken on smartphones, film photography is making a comeback,” said Ashley Reeder Morgan, VP of Marketing at Fujifilm North America. “We have seen a significant increase in both interest and use of analogue photo products in 2022, especially among Generation Z.”

“Instax, and analog photography as a whole, has become a cultural phenomenon with this generation because it represents not only a creative tool for self-expression, but also a unique way to share, create, and engage with others in a meaningful, conscious, and personal way to connect them. “

Morgan explains that Instax is a memory to walk away with, and that’s something the market is grappling with. Fujifilm accounts for over three quarters of the instant category in the US

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Even 35mm cameras are getting some attention, with new products and solutions for photographers either returning to the format or learning it for the first time. Disposable cameras are also making a comeback. “In addition to our Instax products, consumers have also flocked to our QuickSnap disposable film cameras,” says Morgan. “In film photography, an element of mystery and surprise is lost when you create an image digitally and spend a lot of time editing it or just repeating it until it’s ‘perfect’.”

They suggest that film photography is raw in that it lacks filters, reshoots, or edits. “With analog, you don’t have the ability to strike the same pose multiple times unless you want to use up your entire film!” says Morgan .”

New films from brands like Cinestill and Lomography keep things fresh as new faces in the film space, while Kodak, Ilford and Fujifilm refresh their film offerings, bringing back discontinued products and developing new ones.

“Where possible, Fujifilm has revived key film types for users who have patiently and consistently asked for them,” says Morgan.

You are not the only ones. Kodak shot twice as many films in 2019 as it did in 2015, suggesting that the sudden rise of film among younger photographers was fueled by the growing visibility of films and film cameras on social media channels like Instagram. Nowadays, they increase the cost of their films and plan to invest in more production facilities to meet demand.

All digital or all analogue? A bit of both?

While it’s clear that some analog media is finding ways to stay relevant in 2022, it’s not a zero-sum game. There doesn’t have to be winners or losers. “It’s not a rejection of digital experiences, it’s an addition,” says Sax.

“It is indicative of how we want to live, not either/or, but rather a balance. We strive for alternatives that bring us more joy or something that digital does not.”

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While The revenge of the analogue covered products, the next book by sax The future is analogue takes a broader definition of what analog is and explores how more engaging real-world experiences are than digital. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were encouraged to stay indoors and not physically interact with people,” he explains. “As we were forced into this digital existence, we realized how horrific it really is.”

He says the idea of ​​digitizing aspects of our human experiences was the goal for decades. From community hangouts and Zoom calls replacing in-person meetings, to home movie releases or catching up on the latest sporting events from your couch, few digital replacement devices could compete with the sense of actually being somewhere in person.

“All of these things were promised as a digital opportunity and would bring us fulfillment,” he says. “But the future was taught to us and sold to us, we were never really questioned.”

It’s something to think about as we move forward with the virtual reality promised by the Metaverse. As new digital experiences and products come to market, it’s important to remember that you can also hold on to your old, personal, analog collectibles.

https://www.techspot.com/article/2533-the-analog-embrace/ The Analog Embrace: How Some Experiences Are Surviving the Digital Age

Chris Barrese

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