Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Digital Generation

My daughter discovered another song that she wanted to learn to play on the guitar.  After finding an instructional video on YouTube, she's been going at it for hours today, and has gotten really good at much of it.  In fact, she has been practicing this one with more determination than I've seen her have for any other song so far in her short guitar-playing career.  It fills me with pride and I've told her that.

We don't own this song in any format, but she would like to have a copy of it on her phone (Flag 1) so she can listen to it.  She asked if one of us could download it (Flag 2) and appears to have very little interest in the rest of the album (Flag 3).  My wife and I, still seated firmly in the generation of physical media, would rather purchase the CD and have her get the song that way, hopefully exploring the rest of the album in the process.  After all, that's the way we've always done it.

One one hand, I'm absolutely thrilled that my daughter has sought out new music that she likes enough to learn to play.  On the other hand, it saddens me that she has very little interest in anything beyond having a digital copy of a single song on her phone.  It's not just her and it's not just this incident.  Her entire generation is so used to having digital copies of songs, books, movies, photos, etc. that anything more substantial feels cumbersome to them.  Part of me feels that this is wrong, but is that just nostalgia?

I think it's safe to say that my wife and I still feel strongly about having physical copies of things like this.  Such items are substantial; we can access them whenever we want them, even years down the road, and they don't easily get lost or buried.  It's impossible to accidentally delete a physical copy of something and, if your computer crashes, your physical copy is still sitting on a shelf somewhere.  Cover art and liner notes are also all right there as part of the package.

I'm very much aware that a physical copy takes up more time along the road from point of purchase to my daughter's phone.  It certainly also takes up more space.  I fully embrace the conveniences of digital media.  What troubles me, I suppose, is the idea that my daughter has no attachment to anything here except the sound itself.  That the enjoyment of a physical copy of something to have and hold is irrelevant to her.  But is that wrong?  Is this just another instance of the elder clinging to "old ways" while the younger rolls her eyes in frustration?  Isn't digital the way of the present and future for virtually all media?

I bet your answers to those questions will depend on your age.


  1. Well I wrote a long comment and it got lost. I will learn to copy the text before doing anything next time. Anyway, owning media is pretty much on the outs. Streaming is the way to go and spending $9.95 a month for access to millions of tracks is no bad thing. I miss Spotify a lot. Yes, you are clinging to the old ways. If she wants a track buy a track. She seems to have a great reason for requesting it.

    1. Just lamenting the sunset on something near and dear to me, I suppose. I'm certainly not going to do anything that prevents her from exploring new music.