Living an “In-Between” Digital Life

(Cross-posted from the Authenticities blog.)

MY SUNDAY LOS ANGELES TIMES arrived with a sticker on the front page advertising
home foreclosure auctions – a struggling industry trying to reach
people via a dying medium. As ironies go, this was a keeper.

Later
than morning, a man I guessed to be in his late ‘50s sat with a
newspaper and a black coffee. Not 10 feet away at the same coffee
house, two young women huddled around an iPhone, reading news and
discussing various web sites as they sipped their lattes.

That the news business is changing is nothing new. Yet as I get
older I find myself lost between two worlds – clinging to the physical
while embracing the digital. And I wonder if I’m the last generation to
feel this way.

Those older than me will never fully understand or accept the
Digital Present. My sister is only seven years my senior and she still
thinks the Internet is a place where friends and family send each other
lame jokes and urban legends via e-mail. The generation just a few
years younger than me barely reads newspapers and never watches network
news – and those even younger, like my nine-year-old daughter, will
never subscribe to a newspaper or understand news as anything other
than a commodity. Or worse, as anything other than the “Star Tracks”
section of People Magazine.

I’m not saying we need to turn back the clock (and for those of you
shaking your heads right now, a “clock” was a device that displayed the
time with “hands” that could be turned forward or backward. But I
digress…). The news business may be downsizing, but in many ways news
is bigger than ever, more accessible and, thanks to citizen
journalists, more honest than ever before. The best journalists will
adapt because good stories are medium and trend agnostic; new voices
will surface because the barriers to entry are all but gone.

This is all great, all wonderful, and I wouldn’t change the future
for the sake of the past. Nevertheless, there’s one thing I wish we
could hand down to the next generations, could make them understand,
could make them experience.

Ink matters.

Ink doesn’t just activate the senses – it permeates. Ink gives words
weight beyond meaning. Ink has a place, even in a world of bits.

Ink is authentic. It has been around for centuries and has brought us the most amazing stories imaginable and unimaginable.

Ink makes us laugh – and in the case of my Sunday L.A. Times with the home foreclosure sticker ad, ink makes us cry.

Ink is in-between. And so am I.

                           

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2 Responses to Living an “In-Between” Digital Life

  1. Shawna S says:

    Beautifully written, as always. A thought, though: That juxtaposition affects a larger chunk of the population than you suggest, though (I hope it’s not just me who feels this way)! While I may never subscribe to a newspaper, I still *love* the feel of sitting with the paper in the morning. I grab it when I see one in a coffee shop or, especially, if I’m on vacation in a hotel. My sister is 19 and even she grew up reading the paper. For me, it’s the fact that I don’t have the time to read the paper cover to cover (or even close) so I catch up news when I can online. If I had the time, I would love to bring a newspaper into my house every morning. With digital available everywhere and all the time, work hours are increasing and it feels like there’s more to take up the time. We don’t make time to just sit so much anymore. Perhaps it’s a question of priorities, though, because I do make time to read books and knit…at any rate, there are my scattered thoughts.

  2. susan says:

    I believe you are like me, a digital immigrant, but one who is learning fast and while loving what we experienced in the “old world,” feel excited by what’s ahead. I am predicting that ink on paper will be a very special form of communication that will actually cut rhough the clutter. I hope my newspapers will keep coming with some actual news in them. I love my morning coffee and papers routine.

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