Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The future of adverstising past

 Isn't it interesting how graphic designers (who no doubt employ digital imaging exclusively) must still symboliz meaning through old technology? I photographed (digitally captured on an iPhone) the following advertising from the side of a parking garage in Atlanta. 
Notice the camera around the neck of the woman in the ad. It's basically a Pentax K1000, complete with it's circa 1982 neck strap. Also notice the small graphic to the left of her shoulder. It's based on a rangefinder camera from the 1970s.

I think the explanation for these choices is not that advertisers are using retro-themes, but rather, that film cameras have a fixed nature and appearance, whereas digital technologies are slippery-sloped toward no particular appearance. Therefore, they present no fixed, physical appearance through which they can be symbolized. It's similar to how E-readers and word-processing icons continue to feature images of books, or pencil points, or old-school metal type... despite the absence of these physical aspects in the digital domain.

What conclusion can be drawn from this? Probably this... that the material aspects of pre-digital technologies is a comfort to the human mind, in that it presents stable, tangible, and visceral things. Given that we're all human beings, physically existing in time and space, complete with fingertips, tasetbuds, eyballs, etc... such physicality connects us strongly to such objects. The non-objecthood of digital substitutes alienates us.

Digital technology exists to simulate physical objects and processes (cameras, books, sketchpads), but the simulation cannot (by it's nature) accomodate materiality. The object and process exists only virtually. The interface is generalized into mouse clicks and touch screen taps. The paradox of the computer is that its material design functions only for it to simulate anything, but that it cannot physically be the thing it simulates.

It's no wonder advertisers show the woman in the picture with an old school camera. How else can you signify photography? If she were holding an iPhone, you wouldn't know what she was up to. Was she taking a picture, listening to music, texting, downloading emails, etc. She could be doing anything. I'm sure in the future that ads will feature iPhones... but in the future, people won't be doing anything in particular. They'll being doing it all, or rather, the digital device will be doing it for them. That's so much easier.

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