Lossiness

Virginia Heffernan:

But the digital world also brings dysphoria—a low-level but constant heartbreak that is one of its most controversial side effects. I used to try to ignore the blue mood that haunts much of the writing about the Web. . . . And yet it’s still here, the persistent sense of loss. The magic of the Internet—the recession of the material world in favor of a world of ideas—is not working for everyone. In essence, we are missing something very worthwhile and identity-forming from our predigital lives. Is it a handwritten letter? Is it an analog phone call? . . . Is it a way of thinking or being or even falling in love?

During the process of converting analog audio to digital, something is lost. MP3 compression, in particular, squeezes out certain sounds believed to be superfluous to the ear. That transformation is called “lossy compression.” Something we can’t quite put our finger on is lost.

I don’t know if Heffernan was very depressed that day or what, but she just made me want to cry.