March 11, 2013

‘Embracing Analog’: JWT’s Ann Mack presents at SXSW

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As part of the SXSWi festival in Austin, our own Ann Mack, director of trendspotting, spoke today on the panel “Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot,” which examined the increasing embrace of analog, what’s driving it, the ways in which it’s manifesting in culture and what it means for marketers. She was joined by Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion and correspondent for Wired, and marketing authority Paul Woolmington, co-founder of Naked Communications Americas.

As we spend ever more time in the digital world, what’s becoming increasingly valued is the time we do not spend in front of a screen—the time we spend with real people and real things. It’s not that we’re abandoning digital—far from it. But as we buy more apps, e-books and downloads, and as digital screens become our default interface with the world, we seem to increasingly seek out physical objects and experiences.

A recent U.S. survey we conducted using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool, found that people tend to utilize digital tech for its ease, speed, convenience and cost. But the more we embrace the format, the more we miss the emotional qualities it has a hard time replicating. Two-thirds of respondents said they sometimes feel nostalgic for things from the past, like vinyl records and photo albums, and 61 percent said they have a greater appreciation for things that aren’t used as much as they used to be, like record players and film cameras.

This trend is playing out on the SXSW trade show floor, with a number of companies here focused on bridging the digital/physical divide. The Vinyl Recorder, by German firm Tangible Formats, allows independent artists to take any digital piece of content and convert it into a vinyl record at an affordable price. And Guppy, a social media photo kiosk and Instagram print station, is showcasing its product.

Embracing Analog is a digital-era countertrend, a response to the evaporation of so many physical things into intangible formats. For consumers, these responses coexist with their embrace of tech-centric lifestyles; indeed, the stronger that embrace, the stronger the urge to experience the polar opposite.

For more, download the full report here.

4 Responses to "‘Embracing Analog’: JWT’s Ann Mack presents at SXSW"

1 | Michael Griffith

March 14th, 2013 at 10:49 am

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It was a great session, thanks for putting it together. I see the objectification of objects trend in the popularity of Moleskine sketch books, urban bicycle culture, the vinyl toy culture, and oddly the popularity of video games purposely using an 8bit like visual treatment.

I also think there will be some interesting intersections of the embracing analog trend and technology. For example will people be 3d printing record albums?

2 | Ann Mack

March 15th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

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Excellent point, Michael. Frank Rose addresses this in a blog post today about the study:

http://www.deepmediaonline.com/deepmedia/2013/03/embracing-analog-at-sxsw.html

Frank writes: What does it all mean? Taken together, our results suggest that predictions of an all-digital future were somewhere between premature and naive. This meshes with the general mood at SXSW: As The Wall Street Journal’s Accelerator blog noted, “This year it was all about the real world.” MakerBot and its new Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner were a big hit. As CEO Bre Pettis observed in his opening remarks last Friday, the Digitizer is all about bringing physical objects into the digital world. And in the meantime, MakerBot has taken us from the Metaverse to the Thingiverse.

3 | Kagi

May 17th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

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“The objectification of objects”?

Seriously, though, I think y’all’re missing the bigger point: people certainly do put a lot of emotional weight on physical objects, and they may choose to use them rather than digital alternatives, but the fact that they have the choice indicates that it is now impossible to replicate the historical experience of using those objects. The future will not be devoid of analog communication and physical objects, but in an important sense it really will be all-digital, even when you’re using those objects. You can buy vinyl now, but it’s different when you know you could hear those songs instantly, if you wanted to. I still write paper letters, but they now mean something totally different, now that faster means of communication exist. The world of information scarcity in which those objects made sense is gone. And that, I think, is what Gen X people need to think about. We will soon be the last people who remember what that world was like. How do we want to communicate that experience to people who never had it?

4 | Ralph K. Allen, Jr.

November 2nd, 2013 at 11:20 am

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Have you ever dropped your Kindle into a lake or river while fishing? Do you delete love letters written to you?

There is something to be said about digital goodies. There is something more to be said about holding a letter in your hand and feeling, smelling, and otherwise adoring the contents on paper. You cannot, I do not believe, derive the same emotional sensations from looking at your smart phone or computer screen. It is the emotional which we cannot grasp from a digital experience.

I can take a paperback with me and fish without fear of dropping it into the lake. If it happens, I can purchase another one. No worries about dumping a couple of hundred bucks and a library down, like McGinty (sp)
to the bottom of the sea.

And I still like to read notes and letters from my wife; writings that fade but stimulate after over 37 years of married life.

Digital has practical uses, but I won’t simply e-mail something as serious as “I love you” on an important occasion. That sort of stuff requires something more special than email.

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