This content is a part of the whitepaper for the Postdigital Metafesto,
NFT collection on Ethereum blockchain from Ryska.
Being digital has ceased to be an advantage in any field, it is now the norm and a new question arises who are you in the digital world?
The first person to describe the postdigital situation very well was Nicholas Negroponte: Beyond Digital, 1998, Wired:“Like air and freshwater, digital existence will be perceived only by its absence, not its presence. Accept that the digital revolution is over.”, “Computers, as we know them today, will: A. be boring / B. disappear into things.” At the same time, he optimistically posed the question — “Is digital technology destined to be banal?” And we can safely answer, in 2022 and, without much thought — digital is banal. So much so that a well–formulated question of the same content would surely be answered identically by a kindergarten child. A state of affairs where digital is assumed but not admired. Kim Cascone also describes the evolution of our relationship with technology — The Aesthetics of Failure, 2000, Computer Music Journal: “With e–commerce now a natural part of the Western world’s commercial fabric, the medium of digital technology itself is less fascinating to composers.”
Technology is creating a world of intensely tailored and on–demand experiences. Today, we live in a computer–abundant age, where our daily lives and the environments that surround us are saturated with digital technology. We are thus entering a new era of illegibility — we can no longer read what we write, one might say; we increasingly rely on digital technologies to both write and read for us as a form of algorithmic writing. Machine learning creates values that become opaque to us, even though the source of the information is us — through devices that monitor and track us.
Being online seems to be an outdated concept — as a result of our always–on smartphones, just as digital may already speak of a world of the past. And since all forms of media are themselves mediated, produced, accessed, distributed, or consumed through digital devices and technologies, it is irrelevant to distinguish them on the basis of their digital nature. As the historical distinction between the digital and the non–digital becomes increasingly blurred, the idea that the digital presupposes a certain skill makes less and less sense. Computing is part of the very fabric of life, something that can be walked around, touched, manipulated, and interacted with within a variety of ways and means.
It is important to understand the importance of encryption and cryptography in a postdigital society in order to choose the context in which our digital presence appears. The rationality of capitalism tells us that maximizing personal gain is the goal to the satisfaction of the individual, but it also means that, along with individualized and customized technology, the principle of the society in which we voluntarily operate pushes us into separation and isolation — anxiety.
Along with automation and robotization, i.e., with increasing affluence and excess leisure time, delaying futility can manifest itself in new social obsessions — drowning in questions of identity, gender, politics, and norms. Hierarchy and the struggle for territory belong to the physical world — we cannot ignore them, but we should insist on the absence of these aspects in the digital world.
The early digital transfer of information, culture, and media often tried to work with skeuomorphism, so that we could see an e–book with a simulation of paper or shiny reflecion of a cover, including the sound of a page–turning. These design elements can help users with a primary experience of the analog world move into the digital world as the medium tries to simulate their previous experience. The new digital experience is then not as alien as it inherently should be, because there is actually a huge gap between paper and translating ones and zeros through a display. However, a person born into the digital age inherently lacks analog media as a primary consumption and creation medium — they will absorb any digital form naturally.
Postdigital does not mean the end of the digital world, quite the opposite. It describes a world in which the point is no longer a new technology, but a new standard for technologies such as mobile apps, social networks, cloud services, and so–called artificial intelligence. It does not aim to describe life after the digital age but rather attempts to describe the current opportunity to explore the implications of the digital and computer age. The postdigital is thus represented and indicated by the moment when computing has become a ubiquitous part of our lives.
The digital is then understood as a historical moment defined in opposition to the analog. In the postdigital era, technology does not change rapidly, nor does new technology or invention come along that changes the whole of society. What has changed over time can be narrowed down to a single generation, and it is people’s perception of technology and their relationship to each other.
Exploring changes in the perception of what it means to be human and especially to be human in society, because that’s where technology is most evident — in the interaction it fully replaces, substitutes, or mediates. The notion that society has moved from point 0 to point 1 is merely a transfer of binary and deterministic principles and a denial of reality as an infinite continuum. The need for my milestone and the need for a general search for clear breakpoints in time is simply an obsession for clarity in time. We no longer seek things to think about — we seek things to enhance our thinking.
In The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age, M. Alexenberg defines postdigital art as artworks that deal with the humanization of digital technologies through the interaction between digital, biological, cultural, and spiritual systems, between cyberspace and real space. It is therefore important to realize one thing — postdigital is not a new artistic movement, a thought construct, or perhaps a simple idea, but the status quo — the situation and condition we are in right now and live every day.
In the context of art, the postdigital is more concerned with the human than the digital, the rapidly changing and shifting relationship to digital technologies and art forms. Postdigital art can be defined semi–optically by the moment when oil paint, Photoshop, and flea market artifact mix. It deliberately refuses categorization by its very nature of multidisciplinary works. In this context, non–digital media technologies (vinyl, zine, cassette) also become post–digital, unless their use is motivated by nostalgia. Cryptoart, where a digital artwork is transformed into an NFT, can thus clearly be described as postdigital.
We can still reflect on being human and focus on the soul and humanity and use technology as an art form or focus our messages on opting out of the system. The endless pursuit of escaping the technological sphere, without the possibility of rejecting it entirely. To focus on intimacy and maintain human integrity — two positions at odds with learning technology.
Technically, we can imagine a situation where we’re in a room with a comfy couch and a VR set. We can access it and choose any movie we’ve seen so far in the hyper-realistic image and sound quality, look through any art gallery. We can even find any artwork and zoom in on a detail inaccessible to the human eye — and what’s more, look at an X-ray of it and see a blueprint of the painting or an overpainted earlier version. We can play any song in studio quality. We can play a game from the Battle of Stalingrad with an atmosphere so strong that simulating a surgical procedure will seem like a technical banality afterward.
All this means one thing — we find ourselves in a situation of absolute abundance and excess in the context of information and media consumption. But, if on the way to the search for perfection, we reach a point where everything seems technically perfect — all media are technically above our senses — simply — the eye, the ear can not recognize the difference of the technical improvement — how do we know exceptionalism? And is it necessary to push technical quality further than the human senses can absorb? I have often found myself in a situation where I could appreciate the technical quality and even the craftsmanship of digital work, but it left me with nothing. I felt nothing afterward.
It is clear, then, that technological advances do not enhance the experience, the value, or perhaps the importance and relevance of the work. Rather, it can become a confusing component masterfully obscuring emptiness of contents.
The impact of technology on the senses has limits and the quality of the culture is still primarily based on evoking powerful emotions and thoughts.
What means of expression, then, should we choose in an age when even advertising agencies have overcome the aesthetics of perfect purity to use fake glitches and digital artifacts? I don’t know, but I’m convinced that the importance of context and content over form is growing rapidly over time. History also shows us that abundance is a great foundation for degeneration and extinction.
The plethora of choice and decision paralysis forces culture to consume, not perceive, and prevents natural discovery and relationship building with individual works. At the same time, constraints force one to naturally select or curate, but this is disappearing with digitization and the virtually unlimited size of hard drives and cloud services. And with this, the direct contact with single works and the need to think about them is disappearing.
––––– POSTDIGITAL Metafesto – Ryska, January 30, 2022