in Slow Media

Encoding for Loss

When you encode an analogue music file to MP3, some loss of quality is unavoidable.* I believe that the same is true when you pick digital tools over analogue ones.

You may have picked up on my preference for notebooks and pens over computers and phones. In my mind this is more than a choice over which is more fun to use. I believe that using analogue tools leads to a better output.

There is plenty of research to back this up:

Pen and paper ‘beats computers for retaining knowledge’

9 Incredible Ways Writing By Hand Benefits Our Bodies And Brains

The Benefits of Writing by Hand Versus Typing

Clive Thompson “How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think”

A good place to have bad ideas

There are, of course, benefits to using digital notebooks, but as I considered this over the weekend (writing into my pocket notebook) just because there are some benefits, doesn’t mean they make up for the disadvantages.

I want to be able to leave my phone behind for days at a time and that won’t feel possible if I’m using it for notes. So, despite the many advantages of using my phone as a notebooks, that one disadvantage is enough to make it a no go.

There are other disadvantages, but that was the big one at the weekend. And it’s an important one. Being able to leave my phone behind makes up for the occasional inconvenience of taking out a paper notebook, for those times when it’s not possible so I miss something. It makes up for a hell of a lot and when you add it to the other advantages (quality, peace of mind, memory improvements) then it just doesn’t make sense for me to switch.

The problem with a lot of digital technologies is that by using them I would be encoding for loss. I know from the start that they aren’t as good as analogue equivalents, so by using them I am saying that quality is less important that convenience. As I mention in Compromises that is occasionally a compromise that I am willing to make, but not always, in fact, not even often.


*Yes, I understand that there are “lossless” formats such as FLAAC, but I would argue that even when using those formats a certain amount of loss happens by not having a physical representation on the music such as a CD or record. In my experience, listening to music goes beyond the sounds that you hear when you press play. At its best it is a tactile experience.

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