Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Turning back time

The word "retro" derives from the Latin prefix retro, meaning "backwards, or in past times" – particularly as seen in the words retrograde, implying a movement toward the past instead of a progress toward the future, and retrospective, referring to a nostalgic(or critical) eye toward the past. 
The recent resurgence of all things 'retro' has me questioning the nature of the media, as well as what it says about the media consumers today. What is it about looking back into the past that seems so comfortable to us? Is it a very subliminal need to engage in processes and objects that have stories attached to them, the stories that we grew up listening to? Or is it a frustration born out of the sheer ease and ubiquity of most of today's digital technology?

According to this article, cassettes are the new(read old) media that are being considered cool again. The way we consume media, to be very honest, has changed very slightly in the past 5-6 years. We have shifted from the computer screen, to a phone/tablet/ipod screen, bringing with it a new factor of portability, but a whole new system has not emerged. If I were to try creating a mixtape, today, it would require a considerable amount of time and effort. ( I don't own a tape deck anymore) This perceived value of the object in terms of the effort and time required to create it becomes much greater than the physical object itself and will probably lend a hand into making the listening experience novel too. 

It is scary sometimes, to wonder what a world will be like, when all the media that we consume and love, is hidden away on our personal devices. These choices define us in so many ways. If I step into a stranger's house, and see a book shelf, lined with works from the authors I most respect and revere, it's sure to contribute towards our conversation. Records, Cassettes and CD's work the same way for music. Only that music doesn't exist on those formats anymore.
( I think it would be slightly creepy if one were to pick up a stranger's iPod and start shuffling through the music they own.)

I guess the point here if that the effects of media losing their tangibility are diverse and unpredictable. If I were to imagine a dystopian future, it would include people who were wired to consume media alone, on their personal devices.Sharing would recede into the background. The only entity who would truly know us, our choices and our tastes in media would be a faceless,nameless Big Brother; keeping  records of our likes and dislikes, majorly for the purpose of enticing us to buy something that they know we will appreciate. Or should appreciate.

I know books seem to be going the music way, losing their physical form slowly and existing only on a device. People say that art is free and disassociated from the form of the object that holds it. I disagree. I don't think I will ever feel that rush in my veins when I open a minty fresh book for the first time;  if the text is 'downloaded' as a 'file' on my tablet, one that I cannot smell, touch and make dog ears in.

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