Tuesday, 23 June 2009

After digital?

Does the term 'postdigital' best represent the spirit of the 52group's draft paper? In its 'ism' form, it most likely means everything that came after digitalism. Alternatively, it could mean a reaction against digitalism. As there isn't really a thing called digitalism to react against, or follow on from, postdigitalism could be seen as a reaction against nothing. However, the term 'digital' is well established, and its use is widespread. 'Digital', 'electronic' and 'e', are used as a prefixes to distinguish something from the preceding, non digital item (digital watch, digital calculator, digital radio, e-commerce, email). When the distinction no longer needs to be made, because the digital version of the item is the norm, then we have moved beyond digital as a useful description. In this way, a calculator is postdigital - the time to call it a digital or electronic calculator has passed - the calculator is 'after-digital'.

What about an interpretation of the term as reactionary? If we feel that the use of the term 'digital' or 'e' is no longer appropriate or limiting, then we can react against its use. When the use of electronic devices is so widespread in learning that it goes without saying, we might react against the term e-learning. The 'e' will have served a useful purpose in promoting the differences from previous modes of learning, but it may have become restrictive in its scope, excluding or devaluing non-digital aspects of learning.

The use of the 'e' or 'digital' prefix is not wrong. It is a necessary and useful way of redefining a previously non-digital item. I should imagine that there are a whole load of things that have not yet 'gone digital', but will need to be labelled as such when they do. When the time comes for e-glasses, digital pants and electronic flat-caps, then it would be handy to emphasise that these items are now different from their analogue counterparts. But when most pants are digital, the term will become quite unnecessary.

It may (technically) be a mistake to add the 'ist' and the 'ism' onto the end of postdigital, but I quite like the fact that isms provoke strong feelings and extreme cynicism, so I think I will keep using these terms. It might draw a few more people into this debate, which will make it more fun.


mick said...

hasn't the 'e' been replaced by an 'i'? ;–)

Ian Truelove : Cubist Scarborough said...