I finished David Sax’s book The Revenge of Analog over the holidays. I could have written the book, maybe. I don’t say that to be arrogant — I was obsessed with physidigital objects from 2011 to 2013.
I don’t think I could have written this, however:
“Tabletop gaming creates a unique social space apart from the digital world. It is the antithesis of the glossy, streaming waterfalls of information and marketing that masquerade as relationships on social networks. A Twitter conversation is nothing more than a chain reaction of highly edited quips; a Facebook friendship is more like an electronic Christmas card exchange than a real interaction; an Instagram feed captures just the shiny highlights of life.”
There are valid critiques to be made of social media. I read such critiques all the time. David Sax, you’re no JFK.
Now that I have my requisite cheap shot out of the way, some praise. Sax has a clear and easy-to-grok argument, and he does the hard work of reporting and research. There are moments of grey (digital needs analog, and vice-versa) but his thesis requires a lot of black and white. I suppose a book called Watching Atoms and Bits Make Sweet Love would be more difficult to market.
(Want to see a far more intelligent person explore the necessary symbiosis of digital and analog? Read this review by Navneet Alang.)
Sax is a solid writer, but I almost returned Revenge of Analog to the library after sentence number four: “The place smells like hot metal, sour water, and the sweet poison tang of warm plastic.”
Writers of the world! Please don’t use Whitesnake lyrics to describe a record pressing factory.
Thankfully there isn’t much purple prose in Revenge. And I might be the problem — perhaps no one else cringed at: “This wasn’t just a bookstore opening up. It was a symbol of hope, a lone flower poking up from the spring frost after a long, brutal winter for bookstores.”
I’m grateful that Revenge introduced me to Adobe’s Kickbox and Stack’s indie magazine rando-subscription. But despite my analog sympathies, I’ve realized I’m more interested in the revenge of digital:
“Moving through the dining hall, I passed the notice boards bearing photographs of the church youth. I take a cursory glance and spot my sister’s face. I wonder if Facebook is merely digital scrapbooks. Or if the recent resurgence of scrapbooks are merely analog Facebooks.”