Thursday, September 23, 2010

Analog Girl in a Digital World

 Phoenix Fire
digital image by Rosa Phoenix

I grew up in a mostly analog world. 

I was born around the time that the first personal computers were coming onto the scene, although most people didn't have one at that time. 

My family's first computer was a Commodore Vic 20. You couldn't do much with it, except play some primitive video games like Frogger. I learned how to type on a manual typewriter in my dad's medical office.

When I was a kid, I learned BASIC programming. My brother used it to create a picture of the space shuttle, programming it line by line, pixel by pixel, a slow and arduous process.

In high school I created a zine. I printed out the text on the computer, in columns, and literally cut and pasted them into my pages, and I used the photocopy machine to produce some blurry copies.

I learned photography with real film, and we processed the film in a darkroom, with chemicals. You wouldn't see your image until you saw it emerge in the chemical bath, under the eerie red light of the darkroom.

I moved to New York in the 1990's. When I was 18, I took a summer film class and we filmed with 16 mm black and white film. We edited by literally cutting the film with a blade, and splicing the cuts together with tape.

"When we go to digital, everything will change" the instructors were always saying. 

Everyone in the film industry was looking forward to this magical future age, when everything could be changed with the push of a button.

BookBook MacBook case
by Twelve South

I worked for a publishing house for a little while. 

The people there, editors and publishers, also spoke of the coming digital age. 

They weren't looking forward to it. Publishing was already a dying industry. 

They knew these were the last days of print, that e-books would kill the publishing business. They didn't know how much time they had left, but they knew that it wouldn't be long. Soon their jobs would be obsolete.

Everything about the publishing house was agonizingly slow. Stacks of manuscripts were marked with red pencils, and then they were typed all over again with the corrections. Paper was everywhere. 

Going from manuscript, to galley, to published book, to distribution, could take a year.

Unsolicited submissions came in the mail in big mailbags and bins, and were promptly thrown in the garbage.  

These wanna-be authors didn't know how to get their novel in front of the editors. 

They didn't have an agent, they didn't know the editors, they didn't have the right connections. 

No one had the time to read their words and stories.

digital collage by Rosa Phoenix

Now the digital world is here. Our whole world is changing fast.

There is nostalgia, there are things that I love about analog. 

I prefer the tactile pleasures of painting with paint and brush, to making digital art on the computer. 

But I love my computer too. I love the creative programs like PhotoShop and Illustrator, with its layers, the Undo button, changes that can be made with the click of a button. To me it's magic.

I love books and print, but I don't miss the cultural gatekeepers who determined which stories would be told and shared with the world, and which would never see the light of day.

fire girl image by MISHA
digital collage by Rosa Phoenix

I love self-publishing on my blog and my website.  

I love the democratization of expression that the digital age makes possible. 

 I love reaching people all around the world, who I would never get to meet in person, and share my art and ideas with them. 

I love not having to go through the middlemen--the agents, the editors, the cultural gatekeepers, who have to look out for the bottom line and ask the question "will it sell?" 

That isn't a concern that I have.

I know now that I've been waiting for this day to come, all my life.  

I was born in an analog world, and I am also a part of the digital revolution. 

I love to use my hands and heart to create, and I also love my computer, which is another creative tool, that also allows me to reach the wider world.

P.S. the title of this blog post comes from a song by the fabulous Erykah Badu, who has embraced digital media.


  1. Inspiring article! I also programmed a bird pixel by pixel and now I enjoy the digital era that makes everything so easy. I think we are a lucky generation to have had the privilege to taste both worlds... While I am on the computer most of the day, I love spending time creating and then share my creations with the world, just by myself, no agent needed... This is so empowering, to know you with your laptop and an internet connection can do just about everything no matter where you are!
    I love the Phoenix Fire girl!

  2. Love your story! And really love your girls on fire! Nice images!

  3. Thanks for your comments Baghy and Davis. It is amazing what is possible in the digital age, that we can communicate and share ideas this way :)

  4. Great information and amazing work. Love it! xo

  5. your digital art is wild and fun.
    I so agree with you, it is wonderful to be able to share our creations with the world, inspiring one another and getting to enjoy vast creativity. Wonderful post.

  6. Thanks for your comments Alina and Tammie.