Analogue vs Digital

He is an analogue politician in a digital age.

So said David Cameron, of Gordon Brown, during their exchanges in the House of Commons today. This is a difficult metaphor, and I fear David may be using it in a very lazy manner, to mean simply “old and new”. In fact it has meanings that I doubt the Tory leader would wish to imply.

Analogue technology may be old, but music fans agree it means better quality. Analogue records capture the subtleties that digital recordings lack. Did David Cameron mean to describe the Chancellor in those terms?

Technically speaking, analogue captures all the different inputs one continuous, flowing record. In audio terms is hears all the sounds. In photographic terms, it sees shades of grey. Digital recording, by contrast, converts everything it senses to binary data. Ones and Zeros, On and Off, Black and White. Which is better for political discourse?

Most importantly, consider how the analogue and digital mediums are treated. Vinyl records are treasured by their owners, sought after by collectors. Original photographic prints fetch a fair price at auction. They carry auora of permanence. Compare this to the digital medium, where tacky CDs lie scrtached on the floor, and digital files are carelessly deleted almost as soon as they are created. Transient things of momentary interest.

Analogue: High quality, subtle, perceptive, permenant.
Digital: Flat, extreme, polarising, disposable.

How kind of David Cameron to flatter the Chancellor! One wonders if Gordon is receiving such compliments from his own party…

3 thoughts on “Analogue vs Digital”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with the quality argument, but what do I know?

    I also like this post, because it contains a meta-metaphor.

    Metaphors work by analogical mapping, as does analogue technology. So what is David Cameron doing using metaphor, if he feels so disparaging towards all things analogical? In a purely digital age, there can be no such thing as metaphor – there is no digital equivalent. The digital/analogue dichotomy he raises is itself a product of “digital”-style binary thinking. By his very use of the metaphor, he undermines his own argument. Lovely!

  2. Did anyone hear Ned Sherrin on Loose Ends? A cathode ray tube polititician in a plasma screen age. Or an ipod bishop in a gramophone church…. The possibilities are endless.

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