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First thoughts on 'postdigital'

August 30th, 2009 · No Comments · Teaching & learning

The Monday evening opening session of the F-ALT09 programme (http://f-alt.wetpaint.com/) is a discussion of what the notion of ‘postdigital’ means. Within the humanities and social sciences there has developed a rather sceptical view on many claimed post-phenomenon, for instance post-modernity, post-structuralism and so on. The general feeling is that ‘post’ is usually an overstatement of the case.  One useful way to think about what postdigital might be getting at is that we are approaching a time when the novelty of the digital age will pass and an emerging generation will take what we find new completely for granted and unremarkable. Rather like the notion of a post-literate society, we have not gone beyond literacy or superseded it in any way: we just take it for granted that most of the world, our world at least, can read and write. The next generation no doubt will be brought up in a world of personal mobile communications, texting, email, googling, social networking, downloading and streaming audio and video and all the things we see as novel and remarkable. We are already seeing the merging of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ communities and the distinction will probably fall into disuse eventually. So we will not become postdigital, rather it will become a ubiquitous and taken for granted aspect of life. However, I think we may be at an advantage living in this transitional period. The next generation of students and colleagues will not have experienced a time, or an education, that did not include all things digital. Thinking about the experience of students today and even more so over the next 10 to 15 years, made me reflect upon the incredible difference between their experience and my own experience of school as a child between 1951 and 1962 and university as a mature student between 1978 and 1981. I could enumerate in some detail what the differences are, as no doubt many of my colleagues could. Working today with students at university my feeling is that in some ways I have been better prepared for operating in and making sense of our new information saturated digital age than they have. The real digital divide is about the heavy premium put on the  information and digital literacy skills required today and it may be the case that students of earlier generations where better equipped by their educational experience to develop these than students who have been brought up entirely in the digital age.

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