*and everyone else
For this year's SXSW, I worked with the ad agency JWT to devise a survey that would get at what seems an increasingly key question: How do we feel about items in the physical world—books, newspapers, magazines, records, mail—that are rapidly being made obsolete by their digital counterparts? A few years ago, the response in most of the wired world would probably have been, "good riddance." But in talking with people I knew in their 20s and 30s, it was becoming apparent that this wasn't their reaction at all. More and more they seemed to echo Scott Lindenbaum, the 30-year-old cofounder of SPUN, who said to me one day last year as we were talking about music, “Certain objects have memories. In 20 years, I want a token that I enjoyed this album in 2012. I’d hate to have to tell my son, ‘Here’s my hard drive.’”
Is digital supremacy really going into abeyance? Without further evidence, it was hard to say if this attitude extended beyond the reach of the L train. But JWT Intelligence, the agency's research and trendspotting unit, had just listed "Objectifying Objects"—the idea that as objects dematerialize, "people are fetishizing the physical and the tactile"—among its key trends for the year. And the surprise popularity of out-of-bounds theatrical experiences like Punchdrunk's Sleep No More certainly suggests that immersive entertainment does not have to be digital to be exciting. So I met with the director of JWT Intelligence, Ann Mack, and we decided to collaborate on a survey that would explore the issue further. For the next few months we worked with other people at the agency—in particular Marian Berelowitz, from Ann's group, and Mark Truss, JWT's director of brand intelligence—to decide what to ask and how best to proceed.