Today's Obsession: Technology vs. Sentimentality

Seldo’s post on, which I pointed out last week, has kind of blown up in her comments section and around Twitter. I was a little surprised to see Laurie’s post strike such a nerve, but there you go. It seems her opinion of the service as one which downgrades photography to sentimental, lo-rez dreck, is not popular at all.

I’m not interested that she’s getting batted around like a cat toy; that just happens when you buck popular opinion on the web (or, as I call it, Slanderville). What did surprise me was that anyone actually cared. I mean, it’s just an iPhone app, right?

Despite the truth that Laurie points out—the application’s default setting destroys high-rez originals by default—people apparently like their sentimentality. So this makes me wonder about the value of actual quality in the face of perceived quality. An actual photograph of an iris could be just a picture of an iris, but a picture of an iris on a faded Polaroid print is more valuable because it reminds you of a long ago spring day, of a forgotten box of family photos, of the smell of old dusty boxes in an attic. It’s not actual quality, it’s sentimental quality.

This type of reaction is also related to the paranoid hopes that the publishing community has for ePub and iPad based publishing. I can totally understand their nervousness in the face of this, the sudden realization that perfection is, in fact, boring as death.

A real book has a smell, a feeling, a tactile nature that a digital reproduction can never replicate—and that is where visual designers could come into the mix. It could be that a painting of a page behind each page of actual text, one which has the requisite degradation of an old book, the casual imperfections of a dogeared corner, a little splash of coffee, is actually the perfect page. And I wonder, given that, if technologists will seize on that anytime soon.on

2 thoughts on “Today's Obsession: Technology vs. Sentimentality

  1. Patric King Post author

    i guess i should rephrase what surpsised me: i was surprised that laurie’s argument about resolution was outright ignored, considering her audience is largely technical—CMS folks, coders, that sort of thing. i would have expected them to be very much in tune with the notion of archival data.

  2. e

    I’m surprised that you’re surprised

    You guys have a surprisingly simplistic notion of “quality”. You’re thinking of it as a formal quantity for which more is better. The notion of quality as a “quality”, as in “that font has a hand-drawn quality,” is the one that is more artistically interesting. Running photos through software that “degrades” it is no different than your favorite lo-fi band’s use of plug-ins to degrade their drum tracks, or the use of unskilled labor to give your jeans an already lived in look.