Why This Media Scholar Loves Analog

I write all my blog posts in my Moleskine. In fact, when I walk into my classes, I walk in armed with just my readings, some pens, and that same Moleskine. The only time I bring a screen into class is (a) when the readings are in PDF format on my iPad or (b) if I’m leading class and using Powerpoint.

Hand paginated and divided into three sections with sticky tabs for easy navigation.
My Moleskine: Hand paginated and divided into three sections with sticky tabs for easy navigation.

This is a recent development. For the majority of the past 5 or 6 years, I have dedicated myself to finding the best app for everything in order to maximize my time and productivity. And I still do that, but my overall perspective and philosophy of the digital has changed significantly, and it continues to change as I wrestle daily with what an appropriate relationship with technology looks like.

This is part of a very familiar conversation: digital vs. analog. Which is better? Is one better? What is technology doing to our minds? It reminds me of the cyclical dialogue regarding red wine–a constant tug back and forth as we humans try to determine if this thing we love is good for us or not. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and regurgitate the same arguments that circulate our society, but as I’ve recently found myself drifting back to more analog tools, I have been trying to get to the bottom of why I personally am shifting my habits.

The real clincher for me was about a month ago when a friend showed me her new planner. I have never used a planner, and while I was a Moleskine fan at that point, I couldn’t understand why she would ignore the incredible digital tools out there for organizing your life. Which I of course lectured her about. (Great friend I am . . .) Turns out, she does use them–in addition to her planner. My internal monologue in response to that was one of “What a waste of paper and time, but whatever floats her boat”, but as the week went on, I found myself thinking about that beautiful carefully designed planner.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 6.29.27 PM

And I wanted one.

A month later, I still use the same digital organization tools such as Omnifocus, Google Calendar, and Trello to plan my life, but that planner has become one of my most beloved possessions. Why??
This question has been driving me crazy too, but I recently had a small epiphany. I think my love of the planner, and my Moleskine, and analog in general has something to do with time and space. For millennia, humanity has lived in one time zone and one geographic location. If a person wanted to be elsewhere, they had to physically move themselves. Today, however, the Internet and other technologies have compressed the distance between time zones and geographic locations. At any given moment, I can transport myself virtually through a tool like Skype or Periscope to another country where it will likely be a different time of day or night. Shopping online, I know I can order something from my home country, South Africa, and it will be on my doorstep next week here in the U.S.. While this capability is exciting and empowering, it is also likely exhausting. Humanity, in a sense, is “on call” 24/7. Patterns of sleeping when it’s dark outside can no longer be taken for granted. Our digital devices put us on a global stage where the demands of performativity across all sorts of Internet platforms from social media to traditional email, forums, and work chat are ridiculously high. The blue glare of the screen as we wake our devices has a Pavlovian trigger reminding us of our duties to the world.

But when I sit cross-legged on my sofa, planner or Moleskine in hand, it’s just me and a piece of paper, in one location at one particular time. Everyone and everything else is shut out. It is in those moments that I can catch a breath and center myself.

Analog, while potentially more time-consuming and less efficient, brings us back to the present and grounds us in our immediate environments, allowing there to be just one of us–even if just for a little while.

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