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Is this the death of digital?

by Emanuelle Degli Esposti on 15 May 2012

Last week, I attended a conference in Egypt all about the uses and abuses of social media in a changing world. One of the questions that kept cropping up during discussions was on the variable nature of the online network, and the implications this will have on our social behaviour.

Now, you may want to argue that the online world isn’t changing, or even that online is all about change, and therefore it doesn’t make sense to talk about about ‘changes in the online world’ – in fact, these are many of the arguments that surfaced during the discussion. But all of our protestations were swiftly silenced when communications expert Mark Comerford gave us all one very simple task: to define the word ‘digital’ in a tweetable summary of 140 characters or less.

Here are two of the definitions from participants @kuebra and @Der_Maverick:

What is interesting about these two definitions (and indeed, each of the 24 definitions our group produced) is that they were all different. Some were so different as to be mutually incompatible. According to Mark, it is this divergence of meanings that, ultimately, makes digital a meaningless word.

‘To me digital is a word that has no meaning. The word is so over-used that it becomes more of a problem to use it than a solution – because for everybody it means so many different things. In many ways it’s a lazy way to talk about the world as it looks right now.’

Not only that, but Mark also maintains that it is nonsensical to talk about our ‘online’ and ‘offline’ lives as if they were two separate entities.

‘Your life is your life is your life. There is no such thing as an unreal life.’

So what do you think? Is this the death of digital? Is it no longer useful, or accurate, to distinguish between our online and offline selves?

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