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I really enjoyed the Cramer article this week, which challenged the analog-digital binary in interesting ways. It’s important that the terms he works with (analog, digital, even post-) are colloquialized and carry different connotations, allowing him to intermingle them and pick them apart.

Though defining these words is relevant in this context, I’ve been noticing that a lot of critical theory relies on looking at origins of words and both denotation and connotation. Though this may be a valuable text-starring exercise and may open up possibilities of words, sometimes it feels as if it’s more of an instinct or trope than a useful way to break open a concept. For example, the literal definition of digital (able to be broken up into distinct units) has important implications on how we construct its opposition to analog (the fact that the central hipster analog example of typewriter is in fact digital in some sense). However, Cramer immediately undermines that by talking about how the vast majority of people (even theorists) use a purely colloquial definition.

I can’t criticize this too harshly as it’s a self-admitted digression from the rest of the text, but it seems prescriptivist to focus so much on denotation at the expense of real usage. I’m wondering why there’s this instinct in critical theory to break apart words for deeper original meaning rather than looking at its common understanding, and whether or not this technique is employed as effectively as it could be. Not to say that examining the language we use isn’t important—and in this text, getting on the same page about definitions and reconciling the contradictions between media forms is central—but what kind of viewpoints are privileged when we turn to this form of legitimizing language?