Saturday, 20 June 2009


"There are a lot of people around now who have thoroughly integrated 'digitalness' into their lives. To the extent that it makes as much sense to define them as digital as it does to define them as air-breathing. ie it's true but not useful or interesting."
Russell Davies, Meet the new schtick

The 52group are not the pioneers of postdigitalism. The current Wikipedia entry points to an early adoption of the term in the field of digital art. There are others that have co-opted the term with good effect. Russell Davies is a really interesting man who, amongst other things, writes for Wired and Campaign. He wrote a post outlining his take on postdigitalism back in January 2009.

There are three key elements that make up his version of the postdigital. The first questions the supremacy of screens - or 'visual display units' as they used to be called in the digital age - and argues for physical displays units (like paper). The second point, which is quoted at the start of this post, pretty much sums up the 52group's position. The third point is interesting because, by the 52group definition, it is a form of digitalism. It talks about embracing the shiny new ways of the digital, and using the essence of these new ways of being, to build physical things. Davies points to an ink printed on paper thing called 'Things our friends have written on the Internet 2008'. In the context of 52group postdigitalism, dwelling on the digital - even to de-digitalise it, or liberated it from the constraints of binary - is a form of techno-lust. It is digital fetishism, even if it is played out in meat-space.

52group postdigitalism it may not be, but the irony of non-digital techno-worship sounds like fun. Remind me to come back to this when I talk about how I've already lived through one transition to postdigitalism in my next post.


Steven Warburton said...

I wonder if the term post-digital is the right one? It echoes something more post postmodernist (as opposed to post-modernist or post-humanist) and made me look up this old article from 2004 (thought I notice it has been recently updated) on reconstructivism and wonder what you make of this?

Ian Truelove : Cubist Scarborough said...

The bit of post-humanism that demotes us back to the level of other species (or promotes other species to our level) is probably the closest comparative 'postthingy'. The term postdigitalism is less satisfactory when it is interpreted as 'after-digitalism', or 'rejection of digitalism', in the way that postmodernism is after modernism and/or a rejection of modernism. The reconstructivist art essay was really interesting, and probably relates to the repurposing of the digital in a real-world context, but I'm not sure it is so relevant to the 52group's intentions. I do really like the idea of smashing everything up and putting it back together in an even more conventional way. Like a vandal-craftsman.

Mark Childs said...

Yes - "post (insert ism here)ism" takes many forms - the next thing after (post-modernism), a rejection of what went before (post-digitalism in the artistic sense - although this is really a "pre" - like the pre-raphaelites), or the use of the "post" word in things like post-feminism - i.e. something we can start taking as a given - or even if it isn't yet, assuming it as a given pushes the process of accepting it as a mainstream opinion along faster. It's the last of these uses that I think is most appropriate for what we were after here. In fact, it makes more sense to not think of it as the "ism of being post-digital" but as "the end of digitalism" i.e. the end of the fetishising of the digital.

Ian Truelove : Cubist Scarborough said...

I think this warrants a separate post. I get onto it now.

Steven Warburton said...

Looking forward to the new post :)