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Maybe We're Getting Tired of Things We Can't Touch
In our fast-paced, all-digital world, tangible things might just be making a comeback.
This is part of my “Art of Noticing” series, in which I learn, find, or discover the things around me that usually go unnoticed and turn them into an endless source of creative inspiration.
Today, I noticed that it’s not just my daughter and father who want to read physical books, but that I do, too. It got me thinking about how in a world where everything is digital, we sometimes yearn for something we can touch.
I'm an author who publishes far more digital books than physical, paperback ones. I was surprised when my daughter (who’s supposed to be part of that “next tech generation thing”) refused to read anything but paperbacks, and was surprised again when my father, who’s eighty, said the same thing recently.
But that was nothing compared to the surprise I had myself, when the last time I went to read, it had to be paper or nothing. I knew I wanted to read Stephen King, but “which book it was” was nowhere near as important to me as “what’s available in paperback, right now, nearby me?”
It made me wonder: In an age where everything is becoming digitized, are we maybe getting hungry again for things we can touch — things that, unlike ones and zeros, actually feel real?
See also: Vinyl records. Why are they popular again? Aficionados say it’s in the sound, but I’ll bet half or more is because a collection of real records is way better than a collection of digital files.
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Here's how this "noticing" can benefit my stories and art:
If People Want to Feel Stuff, Let Them Feel It!
It starts with simple exploration of the senses, emphasizing them in stories and art. I can describe things that cross senses. Those who make objects have an even easier time following this one.
By emphasizing the tactile, auditory, or even olfactory experiences in art, we can do a better job of transporting our audiences to another world. The rustling of pages and the feel of a vinyl record are things we can connect with in life, so let’s give our readers and viewers the same in our unreal worlds.
Nostalgia and Emotion
Tangible stuff comes with memories and emotions. A physical book or a physical record isn’t just an item. If they were, why would people hoard?
Nope — real things double as vessels for experiences, moments, and histories. Incorporating this stuff in our art helps to evoke more powerful emotions, grounding audiences in the simple human experiences we can all relate to
Cultivating Intimacy of Experience
Holding a book or a vinyl record feels personal. It's a direct connection: a REAL-THING artifact of human effort and creativity. It’s not ephemeral or vague at all. Nope. That physical thing is RIGHT HERE.
As artists and storytellers, integrating tangible elements or themes can make our work more intimate and resonant. (And personally, as a curmudgeon, I tend not to want to even write about things that are too digital unless it’s sci-fi and that’s what the story is about. If I’m writing today’s world, even though it’s not entirely realistic, I’d rather do the Stranger Things thing and talk about analog phones, personally. Period pieces, here I come!)
As we move further into the digital age, we’re still analog humans and we still yearn for things we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. I think it’s primal: a deep-down thing within us. It's a reminder of our humanity and a connection to the world around us.
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