Post-Digital Journal #1

I’ll be updating this journal with reflections on a new research program into the ‘postdigital’.

This project aims to spark discussion on our changing relationship with technology, and to experiment with new processes of collective and creative collaboration.

As an approach, the postdigital is still forming. It offers a reflection on the rapid proliferation of technology into both our lives, and the organisations that shape our lives.

It consists of an inclusive and participatory community, and a set of directional theories and concepts.

In this entry, I’ll briefly explore four interesting ‘how might we?’ questions that can be used to kick-off discussions

1. How might we describe our emotional relationship with technology?

Addiction, anticipation, excitement, FOMO, anxiety — these are just some of the emotions that are activated and shaped by our digital devices.

Consider how, during the COVID lockdown, many of our homes became ‘work-from-home’ offices. This is an example of how technology allowed our work stress to seep into our home, reshaping our domestic environment and relationships.

This postdigital program aims to thicken our emotional vocabulary, using it to better understand human-digital touchpoints from a perspective of psychological wellness.

Key to this is the collection of other peoples ‘digital stories’. These are collected using research techniques such as digital safaris, depth interviews, observation, and other ethnographic techniques.

2. How might we design new experiences that blend the digital and the physical world?

The digital vs analogue tension always sparks debate. Fruitful examples include:

  • The fidelity of vinyl vs the accessibility of digital music
  • The portability of the e-reader vs the tactility of a book
  • The possession of physical artwork vs digital ownership of NFT’s
  • The immersion of virtual reality vs the possibilities of the human imagination.

This program moves the discussion forward by inviting us to map out the affordances of both the physical and technological realms, and optimising each.

3. How might we understand the new types of power structures currently emerging?

Critical schools have launched projects articulating many oppressive and exploitative forces. These include:

  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Platform capitalism
  • Neoliberalism
  • Gentrification
  • Colonialism
  • Financialisation

We know that a handful of Silicon Valley companies have colonised the web and are in control of our attention. And these companies are increasingly providing the interfaces that power universities.

Facebook, Amazon, Google and so on all have their own type of imaginary and way of representing reality that needs to be interrogated. For example, consider the term ‘cloud computing’ which connotes the floating, wispy things we gaze at in the sky; when in reality cloud computing exists as power-intensive data centres, deep sea cabling, and exploitative overseas labour practices.

4. How might we describe the new global condition?

New technologies are creating new types of people. Mega technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, and AI are increasingly automating our lives and impacting our sense of self. And future concepts such as brain emulation and digital afterlives further complexify what it means to use the word ‘human’.

At the same time, disciplines such as systems thinking and biodesign are emerging. These focus on life-conducive principles, and connect us to non-mechanical processes from the biological world.

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