The Golden Page

May 29, 2009


This Information Age we’re living in is full of knowledge, most of which is free and entirely at our fingertips. Yet despite the litany of sites offering free downloadable copies of classics, the world at large remains largely unread. Why?

Perhaps its because the words are not on a page.

You may argue that words are words, and can be read wherever they appear. While this is true I argue that the medium matters. A lot. More than we may realize. Amazon’s Kindle is trying to address this issue, which is this: People want to read things in a format that suits one’s field of vision.

I dont think this is a conscious choice. It’s simply a more comfortable reading experience when you’re looking at something your eye is able to take in without trouble. This is why reading a novel on your computer screen, or scanning through a treatise typed on a billboard, will never be best practice. The medium matters.

So what, then, of music?

The term “medium” or “format” in music relates to the way in which the sound is recorded and listened to, and can range from LP’s to streaming mp3’s.  And the format does matter. Audiophiles who swear by the warmth of long-playing records sometimes have a hard time enjoying the experience  of listening to music on an iPod Shuffle. Similarly, Apple-philes find that the portability and interactive nature of the iPod and iPod Touch make listening to music more fun, and find LP’s antiquated, crackly, and inconvenient.

In the end it amounts to personal preference, but always remember that the way you intake certain art forms can affect your opinion more than the art itself. The subtle way that content relates to medium is an overlooked aspect of preference.

(For further reading into the mysterious nature of aesthetics, check out the Wikipedia article on The Golden Ratio: )


An Argument for Aether

October 25, 2008

The title page of a novel I found at St. Mark’s Books in NYC. This copy was published in London in 1972.

This is something we’ve lost in the digital age: the giving (and receiving) of physical media.

Blogs and online articles are trumping magazines and newspapers. Amazon’s Kindle is attempting to displace books. Mp3s and online playlists have overtaken LPs, mixtapes, and CDs. And when Christmastime comes dashing through the snow, it becomes more difficult to find gifts you can wrap. (Though Sandisk is giving it the old college try with their slotMusic format.)

Media and art are becoming aether. You can see and hear the result–the art–but there’s nothing to touch. The tactile sensation of holding a book, album, or magazine is an important sensory experience that is getting pushed aside in favor of convenience. This is not a new observation, as it is a point that has been belabored and overthought by armchair industry experts since the days of Napster. However, I argue that most people don’t really miss the days of physical media, and the 21st century aether we are all consuming is a more direct, efficient, preferred way to get the satisfaction we’re seeking from artists.

Society has always been on a consistent path to rise above bartering and trade. Stones became fish hooks. Fish hooks became coins. Coins became dollars. Dollars became credit. And credit is simply another form of aether. It’s virtual money.

To be surrounded by objects, and to purchase objects for other people, is to indulge one’s nostalgia for commerce. I think most people are coming to the conclusion that it simply becomes clutter in the end anyway. They also don’t have to go to the store anymore. One less errand.

Are we really losing much with the decline of physical media?

Here’s a story to illustrate my point: there once was a man in England who purchased a book called “Fiesta” for a green-eyed beauty he met at Boxley. Her name was Jane. He inscribed a romantic sentiment on the title page and gave it to her as a sign of his love… The book was later purchased in October 2008 for $3.50 at a used bookstore in New York City.

Perhaps the digital age is helping to prevent heartache the world over.