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24/02/2012

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Teaching? You sure you don't mean content delivery?

Alan Levine (@cogdog)

I could see the trajectory for your metaphor from 1.6 km away. And I love it.

I'd also add something about the artful packaging of vinyl, the design, the liner notes, that yes, we can get in some ways digitally within a few clicks to graphics, but it is not the same as the pleasure of beholding album art. I is a package.

But what happens in this wave is that it is the good vinyl/shopping that matters or succeeds ("good" being relative); not all vinyl is great.

The only thing dead is saying "X is dead"

Brian

I don't have the storage space, or the wallet, to qualify as a real vinyl collector. But I love the medium too much to let this post pass without a quick comment...

* Kevin Kelly suggests, "When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable." Circling back to conferences and teaching, if we are coming to a point where the actual content is becoming "super abundant", then what is not so easy to copy digitally? I find myself thinking of a post you wrote a few months ago "Space - the purpose of education"...

* Another post you wrote comes to mind: "Levels of friction in sharing"... In a post about vinyl I wrote a few years ago (http://tinyurl.com/8yb6efb), I quote someone from an indie label who says "the involvement and work the listener has to put in ...make it the format of choice for people who really care about music.” Something about the effort required is significant. Granted, part of it could be dismissed as fetishism, a way of identifying oneself as a conspicuous connoisseur, like someone who always buys expensive wine... It could even be classified as a form of delusional nostalgia. I remember Geddy Lee once saying that the supposed "warmth" of vinyl was simply the listener taking the distortions and pops of a record and convincing her/himself that this was superior. Kind of like how a wood-burning fireplace is inarguably less efficient than proper central heating, yet somehow feels more satisfying.

* As you note vinyl is still a tiny, if resilient, piece of the market. Five seconds of research indicates (http://tinyurl.com/2c358zf) that a "good" recent year for vinyl resulted in sales of about 2.8 million total units in the US. Twenty years ago, that would be respectable but hardly amazing numbers for a single hit album. Not sure what the significance of that factoid is... except maybe that the passion of vinyl freaks gives them an outsized cultural influence (and that the real action in vinyl is in the used trade).

Martin

@Alan - only 1.6K away, I like to think the trajectory of my metaphors can be seen from space. You are absolutely right - what the presence of digital has made us realise, or at least appreciate more, is the vinyl record as a complete artwork. But yes, Rick Astley vinyl is still rubbish

@Brian - I had you in mind at some point when I was writing this, so thanks for commenting. It was the resilience, even resurgence, of vinyl that prompted this post. It hasn't gone away as we might have expected and is flourishing, but in a very relative sense. Some people have portrayed the vinyl increase as a 'failure of digital' which misses the point by several miles. But I like that it persists, and the reasons for this persistence are what interest me. My guess is most vinyl listeners also have an iPod and an extensive digital library, but it's an alternative experience.
Re teaching (by which I meant face to face lecturing I guess), I think like shopping it will be more resilient to these processes than a pure artefact, but the arrival of online options will make us appreciate the value of what face to face offers.

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