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Florian Cramer’s discussion of the “post-digital” left me a bit unsettled. It isn’t that I haven’t felt unsettled in the course to date, but his challenging of many (or most?) of the topics we have studied in this course comes when I am trying to mentally wrap up what I have learned and how I can apply it outside of this academic framework. To have so much of it called into question complicates that matter for me.
I think the single most interesting takeaway for me that he called into question many of the dichotomies with which we have spent so much time defining and dissecting. Principal among these is the distinction between “old” and “new” media and what is “digital” and “analog”. He characterizes our colloquially “digital” devices as truly hybrids, stating that, “Most ‘digital media’ devices are in fact analog-to-digital-to-analog converters,” going on to cite the example of the MP3 player, which is something many of us consider digital rather than analog (709). Indeed, his questioning of our need to define these boxes as separate entities is rather poignant. In discussing the example of the hipster typewriter at the end of the piece, he advocates that instead of a bold move for ironic anachronism, the subject of the photo (and its ridicule) chose the best tool for the job:

The alleged typewriter hipster later turned out to be a writer who earned his livelihood by selling custom-written stories from a bench in the park… Knowing the whole story, one can conclude only that his decision to bring a mechanical typewriter to the park was pragmatically the best option. Electronic equipment (a laptop with a printer) would have been cumbersome to set up, dependent on limited battery power and prone to weather damage and theft, while handwriting would have been too slow, insufficiently legible and lacking the appearance of a professional writer’s work.
Had he been an art student, even in a media arts program, the typewriter would still have been the right choice for this project. This is a perfect example of a post-digital choice: using the technology most suitable to the job, rather than automatically ‘defaulting’ to the latest ‘new media’ device. It also illustrates the post-digital hybridity of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, since the writer advertises (again, on the sign on his typewriter case) his Twitter account “@rovingtypist”, and conversely uses this account to promote his story-writing service. (709)

This has made me question many of the other distinctions we have made. Those that come first to mind are capture/surveillance, labor/leisure, and public/private. Let’s take the first one: surveillance and capture. We imagine these spheres as somewhat separate (or at least that they used to be). But it is also possible to conceive of them as being more intertwined than they have been given credit. For example, we still conceive of much of capture as an online “paper trail”, hearkening back to the fact that in the past there have been traces of events that could be used ex post to figure out information without ever interfacing with the subject and perhaps without regard for the original intent of the capture. Indeed, many forms of capture come to mind (bitrh/death certificates, report cards, medical records) that are akin to the methods of capture Facebook might use to capture events (name, date, name of event, and some form of documentation such as a photo or a signature) and logs that a website may use to track your experience. This isn’t to say that there has been no change as a result of recent technological developments, but to say we have moved from a “disciplinary society” to a “control society” implies an absoluteness I am uncomfortable defending, and especially so after reading Cramer’s piece.
I could devote an essay to any of these distinctions (and indeed, I may do so very soon), but in the meantime I am looking forward to a conclusion to the lectures and one final section where we might be able to dig into these distinctions we have made.