Where do you draw the line?

iPad = digital. Apps = digital. The internet = digital.

A naturally growing buttercup in a school field = not digital. A chair = not digital.

… However, what if that chair has not been hand-carved by a trained carpenter from a locally felled tree and instead is the product of a large factory with automated carving using laser-precision technology. In this instance, the chair itself though tangible in standing is the product of the digital.

And what if it were carved by the carpenter from scratch, unless he was taught through traditional skill transference between generations, it is likely he went to learn the trade – he may have used books, tools and I potentially the internet, both of which are digital to some extent. Is then the chair a product of the digital?

If so, arguably everything could be seen as on the digital spectrum. If not, where is the tipping point? Where does the arbitrary line fall to define when digital/not-digital?

It seems the more we try to retrofit our new age definitions, the more we lose sight of the emergent, gradual process of the digital and its interwoven nature with what is “not”.

6 Comments

6 Responses to “Where do you draw the line?”

  1. Anabel Drought January 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    It is hard to define things that are not digital or had digital input. Hand (2008) comments that the boundary is hard to draw, I wonder at what point this happened?

  2. sbayne January 22, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Nice post Amy.Do you think that if we still maintain a clear cultural division between ‘digital’ and ‘other’ it’s partly because we continue to need to have the ‘real’ as a touchstone of authenticity, at some level?

  3. Emma King January 22, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Interesting thoughts here – was wondering what you think about how we classify things as technology?

  4. Amy Woodgate January 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    I think there is a perception that we need the ‘reality check’ because real = safe/known (even when equally new!) however I think this is a culturally held requirement, and often only deemed to be required when known that the entity is not as expected, e.g. when a digital tablet drawing is so life-like it is assumed as a photograph until known otherwise and people seem to “see” the digital cracks and feel less of an emotional attachment.

    … Who knows what will happen if holographic chairs are actually created! :)

  5. Liam March 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    In some sense, the irony is that digital (and the binary ’0′,’1′ concept it also encapsulates) is discrete, quantised, not a spectrum (from a science/engineering point of view). That in many cases, a discrete value is an applied abstract or reality by human beings

    (if any of that makes sense – I’m not very good with the words)

  6. Amy Woodgate March 31, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Exactly! We humanise everything – looking at things through a human lens whereby everything is relative to the human and analysed accordingly in this hierarchy – rather than appreciating we are just one of many things and lenses.

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