I think the first album I ever bought as a kid was “Meet the Beatles.” It was a hit record and was featured at the checkout stand at the large market where my family did our shopping. Over the years I collected all of their records.
The record player in our house was an all-in-one job, it was before stereo components were common. My favorite feature was that you could stack record albums and as one would finish, the next would automatically drop down and start to play. I particularly liked stacking ‘Rubber Soul,’ ‘Revolver‘ and ‘Sgt. Pepper.’ The spindle’s stacking limit was five records.
Much later I had a fondness for the mix tape. My music library had expanded by that time. The 90 minute tape allowed 45 minutes of music per side. Putting together a good mix tape was a badge of honor. Getting the perfect songs and sequence, and then making everything fit perfectly required a lot of effort — adding up song durations, pulling songs from multiple albums, starting and stopping the tape to create the perfect flow.
If we skip ahead to the present day, we have the playlist — a drag and drop affair. My iPod has a couple of playlists with well over 100 songs. Generally I use them for background music for dinner parties.
The digital removes all boundaries, the records can now be stacked all the way to the sky. We can collect so much more digital media than we can consume. In an era of human proportions, we could say a person’s eyes were bigger than their stomach. Now our our eyes can scan through thousands of pointers to digital files containing all kinds of media. Since we can’t actually experience it, we consume it through an abstraction layer only through our eyes.
Hugh McCloud once said, “Human attention doesn’t scale.” How do we bring human proportions to the limitlessness of the digital? What is the moral and mortal force that moderates the infinite?