For some time I’ve been thinking about the current dichotomy that frames modern technology. The attempt to split and compartmentalise “real life” as distinct from the “virtual” – Analogue vs Digital. The reason why I’ve struggled with this concept is because for me that divide has collapsed to the point that it no longer exists. Real life exists across the analogue and digital realms, rather than being the domain of one or the other. Friendships exist, some are proximal and analogue others are mediated across vast distances through digital technology – neither is more real than the other – they simply exist. My work is experienced and expressed in the same way with colleagues spread across a vast swathe of the continent.
More and more of my life is mediated through digital media because I am what they describe as an early adopter. But it’s not as simple as that, the truth is I am an early adopter because these technologies offer real and tangible rewards. I can destroy the tyranny of distance that living and working in regional Australia bring with it. So to the sense of isolation. Fuck the big city, the world is at my finger tips. Wagga Wagga becomes the centre of the world!
The benefits for me aren’t about efficiency or efficacy, they are merely side effects of being more connected, more engaged and more in touch with the world. Digital technology empowered the user so we are no longer the passive consumers of culture by proxy, which is the experience of the Broadcast age of TV and Radio, but active participation. Culture is something I can be part of.
However, digital is still new. It’s still embryonic in the way that it’s still essentially unformed. It lacks definition, formal structure, coded patterns and behaviours, pathways and even roadmaps. Interaction through digital technology is still a proto-culture that still needs to be developed, shaped and formed.
It took centuries to become fluent in translating our oral culture into a written one. It will be the same process to become digitally fluent. We still lack ways and means of embedding and encoding the nuance and subtleties of communication and interaction.
How can you express emotion in a meaningful way? An emoji?
How do you embed the history and individual experience of lived life? A thumbnail avatar?
Yet our digital selves and the lives we lead through the technology are no less real than those of our physical selves. In fact are they actually something more than human? They are ourselves completely untethered from physical constraints – our geography, our bodies, our deformities and handicaps. The potential is there for us to move beyond our grounded and bound bodies. Our digital selves are capable of being transcendent and hyper real as pure expressions of our self and who we wish to be unhindered and untethered.
Yet we lack the ability to translate that which makes us human into our digital selves. Empathy, emotion, intelligence, love – they still require our bodies and brains to codify, understand and respond.