Letters of Intent

This is weekly blogpost series by our intern Lily Bui. She writes about radio, technology and more.

It’s easy to assume that technology only moves in one direction: forward. Not quite! While the advent of new applications for digital technology in today’s age would suggest that people are ready to do away with old forms (e.g. printed press, newspapers, calendars, etc.), there’s a counterrevolution amiss.

In Letters of Intent, Kimberly Haas expounds on the inner workings of Red Wheel Press, a Philadelphia print shop that recognizes the stronghold that people still have on tangible media.

“I think there’s a specific thing going on in our culture right now. A strong interest in some kind of classic craftsmanship and hands-on skills. There’s a lot of value to working with your hands, making things on your own and being able to repair things…”

“I’m fascinated with older equipment, especially using processes where I can understand every part of it […] I don’t understand what’s happening when I’m using computer software as far as the technical details. But I can really understand how a machine works, the adjustments I have to make to get something to come out in a precise way.” —Will Stichter, Red Wheel Press

 These days, you can tweet a message to millions of people around the world in an instant. You can look up the definition of a word you don’t know within seconds. You can pull up a clip from a movie you saw once while you’re telling your friends about it. Life moves fast these days. Yet, there’s something about the scenic route that still appeals to the masses. Red Wheel Press is onto something.

This type of marriage between old and new poses a Janusian question for the future of media: how can older technology inspire, evolve, and foment the growth of new technology? What if the old didn’t have to be forsaken in order to make room for the new? If you think about it, radio as a medium could have reached its expiration date decades ago. Yet, somehow video hasn’t killed the radio star. Neither has the internet. In fact, the willingness of producers, stations, and audiences to hold onto radio probably plays a huge part in how we were able to shape the changing media landscape around its existence. 

“It is important to promote the smaller local companies and strike a balance between the age of manufacturing that we have had more than a hundred years ago and the age of technology that we are now in […].”

Who knows? Perhaps we haven’t quite seen the end of print media just yet. With places like Red Hill Press stolidly keeping the art form alive, perhaps the media landscape will do for print what it did for radio, providing even more exciting ways to explore the medium.


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