Skip navigation

Cramer writes: “The term ‘post-digital’ can be used to describe either a contemporary disenchantment with digital information systems and media gadgets, or a period in which our fascination with these systems and gadgets has become historical‚ just like the dot-com age ultimately became historical in the 2013 novels of Thomas Pynchon and Dave Eggers.”

I thought this was a really interesting comparison—both between Bleeding Edge and The Circle (which, I’d argue, address hugely different digital moments, a difference which we could maybe delineate as the one lying between web 1.0 and web 2.0) as well as between a “fascination with these systems and gadgets” and the dot-com age. The so-called dot-com age, I think, had a clear endpoint: a literal collapse, a historical and economically quantifiable burst of the bubble.

I’d argue that the sort of becoming-historical of a widespread fascination with media gadgets described by Cramer is much fuzzier and more difficult to pin down. While I do think it’s true that much post-internet art has, as Cramer writes, begun to take the internet in stride, treating it not as a crazy, foreign, fascinating Other but as a naturalized thing, I also feel like we continue to ogle at the internet in various ways all the time: the amount of wide-eyed tech think-pieces published every day online is, I think, not something to dismiss.

Maybe what’s changed, then, is that the tools we now use to address and critically examine the digital are themselves digital—that our contemporary brand of fascination is no longer that of looking in from without, but is, instead, self-reflexive: we mostly talk about the internet on the internet. Perhaps what’s “historical” or obsolete about Pynchon and Eggers’ tech-focused novels isn’t the two recent moments in which they’re set, but rather the analog medium in which they present those digital moments.