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Definition of Digital Media


 Last update: 2003/07/14


To avoid misunderstandings it is important to have a definition of Digital Media.


Digital Media is not just "media represented with bits". A Compact Disc (CD) carries music in the form of bits but cannot be considered an example of Digital Media. Indeed, what is the difference, in terms of user experience, between a CD and a Long Playing (LP)?

  • Is it sound quality? No, because many fans claim that LP quality is "better" than CD's
  • Is it physical size? Well, maybe, 12 cm is better than 30 cm...
  • Is it durability? It depends on what you want to achieve. An LP can be scratched but you can listen to it unless it is really in pieces. A CD cannot be scratched, but may you end up not being able to listen to it any longer, just because the CD is old.
  • Is it ability to choose? Well, this may be worth something...

The last point is the one that may differentiate a CD from an LP. By pressing a button you can choose the track, without searching it with trial and error as is done with an LP pickup. If you can read the ISRC code on the track and get data about that track from a data base, things get even better and we can transform a "dull" CD into an example of Digital Media.

But then, the experience you have is no longer the regular CD experience. Most likely a user has ripped off the tracks, compressed them and put them on a hard disk, got metadata from the Internet and used some playback software. The CD has been just the content carrier from the record company to the end user, but the Digital Media experience that the end user has created for himself has very little to do with the traditional CD experience.

So here comes a definition.

Media become "Digital Media" when they offer a user experience that cannot be realised with other technologies.

Digital Media is not about bits, it is about user experience.

  • It is not about the way content is produced, because you can have synthetic content that is entirely hand-produced and still offers a great user experience.
  • It is not about how the carrier is manufactured, because that is transparent to the end user.
  • It is not about how content is carried, because you can employ highly sophisticated digital technologies and provide exactly the same user experience as the corresponding analogue solution.

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