Digimodernism: Survival of the Fittest

Do you still believe in the postmodernism fairy? Is your world defined by a self-reflective, ironic culture that parodies and mimics itself in an attempt to disprove any black and white reality? If it is, you are so yesterday. Postmodernism is history. If postmodernism feels safe, almost nostalgic to you, it’s probably because it’s now an historical notion.


But what has risen up from the big black hole to replace it? There are different theories. My favourite at the moment is Alan Kirby’s notion of digimodernism. Kirby describes the digimodern era as autistic, incompetent, poisoned, deranged and infantile. Sounds fun, huh?

But is this just another grumpy white man bemoaning change?

Kirby gets some of it right, I think. He talks about the 7 conditions of digimodernism – the 7 ways it stands out as different to postmodernism.

Here goes, this is my in-a-nutshell-way-too-conscise summary of The 7 Conditions According to Kirby:

1 Onwardness: texts are growing and incomplete. Texts are no longer presented to readers as made and finished. They have a start but no end. You just have to look at a blog to see what he’s talking about. Readers leave comments to either enhance the writer’s argument or harpoon it. And then, somewhere along the line a completely new story unfolds.

2. Haphazardness: the future of the text is unknown, undecided. There is infinite potential to take the text in different directions, to change it.For example, remixes of songs on websites such as CC Mixter which discourage traditional notions of copyright. The original text can be remixed and used for an entirely different purpose than that which it was created, all with the knowledge and approval of the original author.

3. Evanescence: the text is difficult to capture and archive. It is not intended to be a reproducible item. Kirby uses examples such as TV shows that involve audience participation to determine ‘scripts’ or outcomes – such as Dancing with the Stars or Big Brother. These shows can never be recreated because of the unpredictable nature of audience participation.

4. Reformulations and intermediation of textual roles: all textual functional roles are radically changed. Terms such as author, reader, listener, reviewer, editor etc have new hybridised meanings. The author is now often required to take on many roles outside of ‘just writing’. Authors are editors, reviewers (of their own work and others’) publishers, readers, marketers, bloggers, Tweeters. Tara Moss’ Twitter profile summary says “Author of 9 novels. The latest is Assassin. UNICEF Patron for Breastfeeding for BFHI. Journalist. Brand ambassador for Jacqui E. Opinions my own.” Clearly she doesn’t see herself as ‘just’ an author.

5. Anonymous, multiple and social authorship: authorship is scattered across social communities, which may be anonymous or pseudoanonymous.
You don’t have to be a tech-savvy genius to know that participation in online communities can be anonymous.

6. Fluid-bound text: texts become unrecognisable – they are no longer just words on a page or sounds on a disk. A video game is a text, and the act of voting on Big Brother is a textual act. Inanimate Alice is a digital novel for children incorporating video games, sound, images and text.

7. Electric-digitality: digimodernist texts rely on technology. They are not primarily optical, but rather are manually-oriented. Texts in the digimodern world require input that is often based around a screen and a keyboard, or similar technology. You don’t passively read or hear a text, you physically take part in its creation or consumption, even if it is just with your thumbs.

Sounds pretty good to me – but does all this add up to an incompetent, autistic, deranged culture? I don’t think so. I just think Kirby’s looking in the wrong places.

More on that to come…


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