An MFA is the new MBA, so why are we cheering the death of touch?

At the suggestion by David Rich, I am reading A Whole New Mind; Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink. (please don’t buy the Kindle version as it would negate my argument below.)

I find myself asking this big question:

If the MFA is the new MBA, why are we trying to push everything worth holding to a digital screen? Things like books, newspapers, paintings, magazines and human contact via Social Media.

Newspapers and books are much more than the news they contain or the words that tell a story. They are physical things that create an experience. The smell of the ink, the rustle of paper, the curl of the page in the wind. The annoying die-cut on the front cover that catches the edge of the covers as I try to read New Mind lying on the couch, the alternating page colors between the text and the portfolio (so very Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath.) I know the preceding sentences are fragments, but I thought I would exercise some creativity.

I could read New Mind using my Kindle for iPhone, but then it would look and feel like every other eBook or RSS feed from every other Web site. And reading about how creatives will shape the future while swimming in a sea of sameness somehow seems wrong.

Marketing budgets are being slashed to whack out printed pieces in favor of posting stuff up on a Facebook page. Companies are rushing to use Twitter to send out their marketing message. Blogs are all picking up the same ideas everyone else had and writing about the same stuff. In a rush to “save money” or capture the audience in the next space, companies and brands are stripping out exactly those things that create differences. The smart ones will realize the kids are now seeking experiences outside the digital space while incorporating it, not replacing it. Analog is the new black.*

There is really something wrong about Twitter showing us “trending topics” as if finding out what the majority is saying is a good thing. I Twitter to find out exactly the opposite! I want to discover the eclectic, the offbeat, that lone opinion whispering in the corner, not the deafening drumbeat of stuff I am already being fed ad nauseam by the cable news industry. I want to be the un-crowd, not hiding in it.

I picked up my car from the shop yesterday. It is a late-model Subaru. I didn’t know what was wrong with it and had no way of finding out as there are computers and electronic this, that and the other thing. As I was walking out, someone pulled his 1970 Chevelle into the bay and popped the hood. I had to stop and take a look. And cars all made sense again; a carburetor, engine block, heads, exhaust manifold, lots of room to work around the engine, fenders and quarter-panels; the kind of car that makes driving an experience, not just something that gets you from here to there.

Eventually, though if the digital folks have their way, we won’t even need cars. We’ll all be telecommuting through our flat screens, digital microphones and video cameras. We may even have a “hand shake” machine sitting on our desks that simulate a handshake during a teleconference. I think that the pendulum will swing back away from digital-only, but hopefully not before we can save some things that give life texture.

I have not finished New Mind yet and I am probably a bit premature talking about the concepts. Most things look more clear at 10,000 feet than they do at 10 inches. But those things that are worth holding onto are those that create the most lasting experience. I have not yet seen anyone recall a sense of place or relationship based on a Web site they have experienced like they can with smell or music.

Time will tell.

*Really? Oh, yeah. Why is the 35-55 crowd increasing dramatically on Facebook and Twitter, while the 15-30 group is not? Why are vinyl LP sales going up? Kindle sales are mostly going to the 45+ crowd. Explain Susan Boyle.