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The Post-Digital Week – 4 Mar

After several weeks of trawling through the internet for interesting thoughts on post-digital, I've become a little weary of how often the term is used as an empty buzzword (and yes, marketing types, I am looking squarely at you) rather than as a jumping off point for discussion and new ideas. Ben Hourahine seems to have hit a similar point:

According to the buzz merchants abound in our industry, we are entering the post-digital, post-pc and post-social era.
In case you haven’t heard these pronouncements, the first is based on the belief that everything is increasingly digital (so digital disappears), the second on the fact that PC’s are getting smashed by phones and tablets (in terms of shipments and sales), and the third on the realisation that social media and the Internet are not actually separate things (go figure).

However, his conclusion to his article, which first appeared in Adnews, is an odd one to me:

Well, we have work to do. We need to spend more time really understanding how digital technology will actually further integrate into physical life. We also need to spend time analysing what this change will create and not simply the buzzwords it may destroy.

But – isn't that the point of post-digital? It isn't about the death of digital – it's about the new things that arise when digital is so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. I suspect Mr Hourahine has been a little too influenced by the empty buzzword merchants.

There are plenty of post-digital ideas to get excited by:

Driverless cars come ever closer, which could ease our transport issues – or make them worse.
Digital technology could be the bedrock for a revival of manufacturing in the UK:

That is a different kind of customer for UK manufacturing. It is a digitally-empowered one and to understand him/her, the industry has to adapt. Once that customer has a product they are happy with, they will look for funding through Kickstarter or sell their product online through Etsy or Folsky. (Most of these digital services were not developed in the UK, I hasten to add.)

Social media should move beyond being a tool of the marketing department and start to transform businesses.

Perhaps, indeed, companies should evolve to the point where they're a network of projects:

A project is exactly this: a network of interdependencies created to achieve a precise goal in a well-defined time frame . A project is a system with a precise duration. A company viewed as a system is therefore a network of projects, and the orderly creation and timely completion of these projects should accomplish the stated goal of the network.

But art is leading the way here. Melanie Bender pointed me at the Speed Book where Aram Bartholl collapses digital ideas into physical space with startling results.

I think there's plenty of evidence there that post-digital is the beginning of something, not the end of it, don't you?

[Image: Aram Bartholl from Aram Bartholl: The Speed Book, Copyright Gestalten 2012 ]

2 Comments

, Tijmen

Dude, step away from "teh buzzjuice". SRSLY.

If you want to analyse things like this, or define 'epochs', study digital cultural analytics at university or something. Go learn about cybernetics, the technological imaginary, technological determinism (and why you should avoid it), etc.

Reviving manufacturing is not a matter of digital innovation, it depends on a complex ecosystem of oilprices, international power struggles and, education systems, ruling ideologies and fears. Look at Manuel Castells for example. 3D printers will never be as efficient as a factory in cheap labor country. And who is to say China won't develop this technology too, and blow the USA and Europe out of the water?

Anyway, sorry to be a downer. I don't know all these things better, I don't. But posts like these, that just flutter about a little.. throw out some buzzwords.. I dunno. Not my cup of tea.

, Adam Tinworth

Well, it's a post of links. It's meant to flutter around the edges. It's sort of the point… :-)

The real discussion on all the subjects I'm alluding to here is elsewhere, and that's just fine. I'm just pointing to stuff I feel ill-equipped to discuss at depth myself.

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