Over the past couple of months I’ve been meeting with Vjeko Sager and Duane Elverum to talk about what the Post-Digital means to us. The conversations over breakfast have been lively and interesting. We hope it shapes into a tangible outcome at some point but for now we are allowing ourselves to explore and discover more about our own relationships to the digital era.
Although our perspectives and expressions of what we feel is Post-Digital are quite different, we seem to agree that Post-Digital creation does not necessarily have to exclude using digital means to achieve or produce one’s outcome. Quite the contrary, we believe that the Post-Digital is informed by thinking with digital tools but not being confined to using digital tools or methods. Just to give a bit more context here is a previous posting about defining digital.
In our last conversation Vjeko, Duane and I agreed that we need to push ourselves into articulating some specific aspects of how we view creating in a Post-Digital landscape. With this in mind we gave ourselves this thought experiment:
With a gun to your head, what is the most important thing the digital has taken from you? What is the most important thing it has given you?
My first inclination was to say that the Digital era has given us new eyes. Much like how Charles & Ray Eames gave us a new viewpoint or way of thinking in their milestone film, Power of Ten. Some say the digital era has given us the ability to stretch time and space.
What I mean by new eyes is the idea of being able to see beyond our normal capacity – magnifying on incredibly fine details of images or sound or panning out to ‘see’ how nine Beethoven symphonies plot out over time. The notion of being able to convert something that happens over a great length of time or space into one macro view is a digital one. Yes, I’m sure it was done before we had digital technology but the ubiquity of computing has brought that type of thinking to the everyday designer or artist.
This brings me to what I believe is the most important aspect of what I have found as a creator in the digital era. The digital world let’s me to traverse many mediums seamlessly. When I am creating with digital tools I can live in the moment and improvise without the borders that we have in the physical or analogue space.
In the digital space, everything becomes your raw material for creating. Everything is up for grabs – duplicatable and malleable. Everything can be converted from one medium to another. The boundaries melt away.
I’m able to make something out of something else. The digital medium lets me mash sound, visual and thought into a single expression. I feel that my multi-disciplinary tendencies are able to blossom in a natural way.
What’s good is also not so good
As it turns out, what I believe to be the great advantage of creating in the digital sphere is also the cause of what I believe I have lost in the era of digital creation. Personally I believe I have become less focused an artist or creator. In my teens I played guitar and by university I was playing guitar professionally and had mastered the instrument. The single-minded intensity and desire brought me the level of proficiency and intimacy with the guitar that in turn gave me the ability to express myself extraordinary ways. Essentially, I am still striving for that same level of self-expression in the digital sphere.
The digital world has an intoxicating allure that, for whatever reason, tends to fragment my focus and send me off on tangential exploration. Sometimes this brings me back to my original intent with new found fodder and sometimes not.
Whether we like it or not digital computing is pervasive in our culture, sometimes I wonder if asking us to imagine our lives without digital is as difficult as a fish imagining life without water. If you want to swim the digital gives you vast oceans to dive deep into. But what if you don’t want to swim?