My Top Tech Trend for 2013: The Return of Analog


My students and I make fairly heavy use of digital tools: we use Google Apps, Google Sites, Twitter (follow us at #tokafe11 and #tokafe12) and Storify especially. But increasingly, we find ourselves sharing analog content.

Because it’s easy. Easy to draw and doodle and scribe even complex ideas. Easy to photograph. Easy to share. Easy to archive.


Digital and paper make a killer combo. (As an aside, I think 53’s brilliant Paper app is tapping into this notion.) The barrier to entry is very low. Anyone can write or draw–we don’t need to train on a particular platform–which means everyone can engage. And we don’t need a lot of tech–just one smartphone (or even something like an iPod Touch) in the classroom and you’re good to go–which means we can get down to business cheaply and quickly and with little disruption.

To be sure, the total volume of analog work in my classes is not large, but I do see a growing trend to go pen-and-paper. Actually, it feels more like an awakened sense of possibility. One of my students has even taken to seizing a whiteboard and sketch-noting class discussions.


Until very recently, we have had to adapt to our technologies–think of the QWERTY keyboard which was designed to slow down typists so the keys wouldn’t jam. I think we’re now in the very early days when tech is sufficiently powerful to be able to adapt to us! Watch for this to grow this year.

One Comment

  1. Reply
    Melanie Kahl January 17, 2013

    Love it! (glad you could join the hang out today as well) “Digital and paper make a killer combo,” indeed! And I love your use of the paper app. Looks like you are really creating a dynamic learning community over there!

    The analog comment reminds me of Quarterly –

    I talk a little about this relationship of digital and analog in a talk I gave called digital/analog, practice: and explain “Quarterly” a bit. Also more on the shared power of the pencil and the pixel in an article here:

    Some speaker notes from the part of the talk pertaining to Quarterly:
    “If you are in this room, you probably follow blogs. If not a blog, there is that columnist you love or that artist you admire. And the world of the internet has given you unlimited, and often paralyzing, access to their projects and philosophies.

    Perhaps on occasion, you’ve imagined being their (author, public figure, star) friend. Sharing a meal. bouncing of emails, maybe the occasional holiday card. Inviting them to your birthday party (just roll with me here). Have you ever wondered what they would bring you as a gift? A physical gift from a digital admiration?

    Enter Quarterly.

    By the founder of GOOD magazine, Quarterly Co.™ is a subscription service that enables people to receive physical items in the mail from influential contributors of their choice– “a subscription service for wonderful things.” Every quarter–– your favorite writer from the Atlantic, world changer in rural NC, president of a groundbreaking design school sends you a package of curated gifts.

    So enamored by this bridging of digital and physical worlds, a group of friends and I used the powers of twitter and good ol’ fashioned peer pressure to organize a team to “divide and conquer” the Quarterly list.

    “UnboxQuarterly,” a small group of subscribers to Quarterly, was born. (slide 40)

    Take that further. We organized local curated gift exchanges in place of secret santa (physical), shared them (on flickr,) (slide 42). We started a blog to talk about snail mail and brown paper packages tied up with strings. We chatted with the founder.

    —– We connected.—–

    Here is a business model that is built on the implicit bridging of our online and offline lives.

    It is easy for conversations about the future to focus on the new. the glass. the systems. When people think technology, they think lightening fast software and shiny hardware. When they think digital, they think avatars, memes, and tweets.

    When people think analog. They think old fashioned. Slow. Antiquated. Grainy.

    But maybe that’s too simple of a duality.

    In the practice of design, we move toward what might make us the fastest, the most efficient, Often at the cost of conversation, dabbling, discovery. As our tools and networks accelerate, we must consciously remember basics. And more than remember, bridge. Design for the shared power of the pencil and the pixel, of your inner circle and your followers. And TTT+ is putting it into practice.”

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