Generation Anxiety

The ‘post-digital’ is often described as two-sided. Both sides are relevant to artistic and social relationships in the digital age, and the quickly aging medium of “new” media. The notion of the post-digital illustrates the abstract anxieties of my generation, (reluctant Millennials) to define themselves in relation to the constant flow of technology, images, and information that surrounds them. In one sense, post-digital describes disillusionment with technology, maybe because of its mass reproducibility (memes, snaps, and associated catchy words) or its deterioration of privacy.

For some, the solution is to disconnect and go back to the old, safer, “better” way. That guy in the coffee shop with a typewriter for example. Suspiciously, I find this phenomenon is rarely present in those who actually had to use typewriters. My parents grew up with typewriters and would never trade in their new digital toys for the “frustrating and unforgiving,” “Do you realize what it was like to correct a mistake?” clacking of a typewriter, which they don’t seem to find nearly as romantic a sound as I do. Reluctantly, I’ll admit that this desperate return is a bit naïve and possibly useless. Though these analog ghosts have been far from exorcised (just look down at that keyboard of yours.)

Artists are probably the exception to this rule and generally have reasons other than nostalgia for returning to older materials or methods. I was so excited to try out a digital drawing tablet, but I quickly became so frustrated with the clean marks and slight delay that I ended up drawing with a pencil, scanning it in and only coloring it on the tablet. I’ve since acclimated, but the point remains.

The other definition of post-digital is slightly different. Media theorist Florian Cramer uses post-feminism as an example. Post-feminism doesn’t imply that feminism is over and something has come after it, but simply that this new movement is a continuation of feminism, as well as a different movement in its own right. So post-digital could be looked at as an extension of the digital: a move towards a restructuring of our interactions and relationships with the digital without abandoning it.

The takeaway is a hybrid answer. I remain disenchanted by the digital. At the same time, in worrying over its history, I can’t help but consider its future: a sparkling post-digital that is aware and “enlightened” to the mistakes and concerns of its past without abandoning technology. It’s ultimately up to the users/producers of digital and new media to search for the critical and philosophical answers they seek by reexamining the intersections of their own digital and physical lives. Gaze into the digital abyss from the physical realm, even if it’s like that scene in Donnie Darko, and there’s a man in a bunny suit staring back at you.

I suppose the moral of the story (or in this case, the briefest of discussions) is that even though new/digital media is problematic and violent, hateful, oppressive, and scary, it is also creative and communicative, empowering, and funny. An instrument of change that exists in a state of constant mutation, understood and controlled by the most logical and purposeful, and in equal parts the most whimsical and impulsive of processes. An infinitely interesting subject.