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Time is not a digital medium — at least, as far as we can tell, it is analog (in the sense that it is not composed of discrete parts, but can in fact be infinitely subdivided). Granted, there is a sense in physics in which there is a smallest length of time that can be meaningfully discussed in certain contexts, but this isn’t to imply that it has any sort of real granularity, and the scales of time concerned in that sort of discussion are so small as to be irrelevant in most practical situations.

And so it’s this — the continuum of history, that makes me frustrated at the usage of terminology like ‘new,’ or ‘post,’ or even ‘modern’ to describe segments of time and culture. There seems to be a human compulsion to discretize time in this way, breaking it into eras — the digital age, the information age, the time of new media. It’s not that I’m saying these distinctions are meaningless, or not in some contexts useful, but I am offering a bit of a push back against the treatment of them as essential.

For one, terms like ‘new’ and ‘post’ are inherently temporal, and it seems to me that they will age poorly. What happens in a hundred years to what we currently refer to as new media? It’s kinda like how the Vartan Gregorian quad still gets called New Dorm despite the complex not being very new (and not even the newest of the Brown dorms). Or like how Modern Art refers to art produced in an era that has already passed. I actually really liked Cramer’s What is ‘Post-Digital’? I found that it offered an interesting, and fun to read exploration of what actually is implied by the all-too-common prefix, when applied to the digital.

In general, I guess I’m skeptical of the idea of new media being set in dichotomy with old media, as if human kind had been producing a sort of homogeneous pastiche of analog media since the dawn of history, and only in the past twenty years or so has there been this dramatic shift of paradigm.

But I’m also not a historian, and I’m very much a product of the generation in which we live. I haven’t been around long enough to really experience the passage of time on the scale of eras, and I’ve never lived in one without so-called new media objects essentially inundating my life. Perhaps the distinction is clear, and relevant, and unavoidable… and I just don’t have the perspective to notice.