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what makes karen carpenter such a cult classic other than its obvious production direction?

will all our quantifiable data about our personal lives exist as big data at some point in the future?

will all new media technology utilise participation instead of a simple interface in the future?

Here’s a link to my final assignment for anybody who’s curious.

This is just a musing inspired by a recent facebook post floating in my stream.  A while ago, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, a really stimulating work on the paradoxical cultural logic that is the nation.  His premise, published in 1983-before the internet’s hayday, is that the concept of citizenship under one sovereign national body, is ultimately socially constructed, because we rarely encounter most of our fellow citizens, but still starkly uphold values such as patriotism and nationality.  Many of Anderson’s ideas stem from new spatialities, expansions from the village into the global village, and the consequent sudden push for solidarity.  How does networked culture break down this 30 year old schema?  When  I encountered this picture on facebook, I wanted to think through how contemporary patriotism, given the NSA fiasco, warfare within the last decade, and police brutality, has become not only a transparent fallacy, but a penalty to be monitored by the panopticism of the popular opinion of the internet.  How does Anonymous fit into this scheme?  How are virtual connections becoming more affective and effective than the socially constructed connections that used to be the lifeblood of our nations (simulacrum event)?  Can we imagine a world in which networked guilds, like world of warcraft raiding groups, or reddit subthreads, have more influence on the actual workings or routines of our daily lives?

I wanted to crystallize some concluding thoughts about the semester by discussing our last reading on the post-digital.  Or perhaps I want to pry open the discussion to get better answers.

What intrigued me the most about Cramer’s discussion were the multiple vectors of influence he ascribed to the post-digital illustrated by his description of meme’s: “Other important characteristics of imageboard memes are: creation by users, disregard of intellectual property, viral dissemination among users, and potentially infinite repurposing and variation (through collage or by changing the text).”  Post-digital is amorphous; it is a concept contoured by every system it attempts to subvert, every classical distinction which it repurposes with rebellious intent.  Cramer did a great job at illustrating the conceptual rift that exists between the digital and post-digital and how rarely this disjunction is registered by contemporary audiences and by negatively defining post-digital, he opened up new frameworks for understanding the practical possibilities of its implementation.

Within Cramer’s framework of the digital, one could surmise all the possible deficits our current, fanatical understanding of new media suffers from and why its study has produced only illusory solutions for real-world problems.  That’s because we’ve entered a realm where the virtual and the concrete are tenable, and even more complex when we try to sum up our individual value by the increments appropriate to the digital.

If Cramer is right and the “‘Digital’ simply means that something is divided into discrete, countable units – countable using whatever system one chooses”, under this condition of distinct counting, social renovation becomes difficult, adhering to the same fraught systems which undermine individual agency and large-scale change.  Further, if we take Cramer’s definition of digital information as “an idealised abstraction of physical matter which, by its material nature and the laws of physics, has chaotic properties and often ambiguous states”, any sociologist, student, or citizen could see how the stringent framework of the digital would be an ill fit for the complex cultural architectures constructing everyday living.  So how does one implement real change?  Is it really through DIY crafts?; or is it through choosing the right medium for the message, on never favoring the hich-tech for its fidelity but for its aptness of the situation?  And further, how can we apply this tech worldview to social practice?

While I struggled all semester to answer this question, our last lecture clued me in to the secret of the course: this searing enlightenment is not meant to provide answers, but to bring the hidden structures of power and social control into sharp relief, where one can critically examine and proceed with an educated awareness.  After reading about everything that the post-digital is not, perhaps critical digital media studies are more about building a reflexive skepticism towards visceral revolutionary thought and to prod into the future with informed hesitation.  That technological disruption does not signal change, but a new network of possibilities that must be approached with the patient caution of Cramer’s paranoia: that “the post-digital condition is a post-apocalyptic one: the state of affairs after the initial upheaval caused by the computerisation and global digital networking of communication, technical infrastructures, markets and geopolitics.”

And as for this last quote, well I’m still working on its interpretation.

“Each of these fictions of agency represents one extreme in how individuals relate to the techno-political and economic realities of our time: either over-identification with systems, or rejection of these same systems. Each of these extremes is, in its own way, symptomatic of a systems crisis – not a crisis of this or that system, but rather a crisis of the very paradigm of ‘system’”

In this post, I am going back to week 13 to address the readings from that week. Ranciere discussed the paradox of democracy in that the democracy of social life undermines the political democracy. However, I also saw this paradox in the examples of how some immigration reform activists use social media as a platform to give a face to their campaigns. The individual support of each individual is stressed. Giving each opinion and voice a face, a more personified aspect, would enhance the support of the campaign to bring together a collective of relatable individuals. This made me think of my sister’s favorite artist, JR, that she told me about a few months ago. He does something a bit different- instead of bringing together thousands of voices, he highlights just one, but on a huge scale. He plasters a cut-out of a photo of an immigrant on a public surface so that the image can then only be viewed in its entirety from a distance or from a bird’s eye view. Most recently he plastered an image near the flat iron building where thousands of people walked over the art piece without knowing. Only until the cover of last weekend’s NY Magazine showed the image from above did it become apparent what it was. It is supposed send the message that the immigrants are integrated into the US, where everyone passes by each other without being aware of their background. They are sewn into the fabric of the everyday life in the states.

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In his article ‘what is post-digital?’, Florian Cramer discusses a rising disenchantment with digital media and technology. While I believe that he is correct in his assessment that we are moving towards a post-digital era, I do not believe the he has correctly identified the form of the trend. That is, he speaks about a return to old-fashioned technological roots due to a weariness with the fast and efficient nature of digital technology and media, as well as due to a  growing fear of a technocratic state. However, while some of this certainly makes its way into our culture, I find it completely false that this sentiment is in any way main stream or even culturally significant. Rather, I feel that we are moving towards a post digital era because the digital is, as he put it, no longer new media. I feel that our culture is quickly making the transition out of the honeymoon phase with digital technology and media towards a place in which it is becoming the norm, a fundamental part of our lives. If anything, we are entering a post-digital world because we are becoming increasingly integrated with digital technology, not drifting away from it.

We have already entered the realm of the digital, can we even move to post-digital?

This question continually stumps me. I know that as a Generation Z-er, I have never had a time in my life without the presence of new digital media. Old media is viewed with a nostalgia that I was socialized to believe by older generations. Why do I think records are cool, when I have only used them a few times, and I listen to Spotify and iTunes everyday?

On the Internet, the good is mixed with the bad, because that’s also how society works. I think the Internet is a continuation of civil society, as well as community. People participate in digital media, because it’s either participate or get left behind. Participation can lead to extraordinary mobilization of movements, which includes exposure. Participation also leads to the constant creation of big data, which is used to predict based on pure data. And it all seems game-like and removed,  because it takes place somewhere separate from the physical real world, but has very real consequences.

I think the question to ask is not if we can move to a post-digital society, but in what ways can digital media continue to take over society? When will digital media be taken for granted, and not as a remarkably new phenomenon? Will the digital ever move into the real?