WTF is Digital Culture anyway?

The more I talk to people about this project, the more they ask “yeah but what exactly do you mean by digital culture?”. It’s a good question and I think it has several answers, depending on where you’re coming from. I’m coming from the perspective of media arts (which again is often hard to define!) but i have purposefully broadened the area for this project. I think digital permeates so much creative practice these days that we can’t even tell where one starts and another ends anymore.

But you are going to hear plenty more from me in the near future… So, since this whole project is about asking other people what they think about digital culture, let’s start by asking WTF you think digital culture actually is.

Share your views by commenting below, use the hashtag #WTFisDigCult, tag me on twitter @feesable or find me on facebook or Google+

UPDATE Sept 2015.

This four year old (!) post consistently comes up in my analytics, so I figure I should actually answer the question since people seem to want to know :)

In my opinion, digital art is any kind of practice that either uses technology in the process of making a work but the artwork outcome doesn’t use any technology in the delivery of it (databases which inform choreography, for example) or works that explicitly use technology in its delivery (like a space rigged full of sensors so as you move through the space it changes light/image/sound etc accordingly. Or of course it can be a combination.

Creative digital culture, on the other hand, to me is more broad, so how society and art and technology come together, from artworks to critical theory to social media platforms and beyond.

Does that help?

11 comments » Write a comment

  1. Looking at culture in the broadest sense, digital culture is an answer to the question, “how did people do this before we had [insert name of technology]…?”. You’ve heard people ask that countless times about any number of devices or technologies. Digital culture is about how technology is changing the way we do things, discuss things, make things, design things, consume things (and dispose of things). And the same applies to art and culture – my interest is how it’s changing the way we make art, but equally it’s about how we do art, see art, and consume art. The huge impacts it’s having across culture in the broadest sense are reflected in art.

    • Thanks Andy, and I couldn’t agree more! I’m loving how we’re really seeing convergence come into its own at the moment. It used to be about the convergence of technology (hardware/software/platform) and content, but now it’s so much more about the convergence of technology and culture. Exciting times, especially for Australia getting a National Broadband Network.

  2. Connecting up meaningful experiences: Art is a distillation of a meaningful experience that can somehow transmit an essence of what that was like. You can create art digitally, but you can also connect up digitally so that meaningful experiences are distributed more quickly to a wider reach. Culture is a common set of understandings, memes and experiences to facilitate a meaningful dialogue. The use of digital media and the internet creates useful tools to communicate these.

    But Digital Culture really works when someone works to digitally communicate a meaningful experience and by doing that creates Art – especially when that communication incorporates a massively scale-able method of interaction so that the Art becomes playful: a toy or tool people can enjoy playing with that doesn’t lose it’s essential artistic meaning.

    • love it, “playful art” has to be pretty high up on a ‘digital arts’ goals list, right? and I completely agree it should be meaningful. that’s so hard to get right in any medium…
      thanks Adam!

  3. The image that comes to mind when I hear “digital culture” is a mish-mash of modified electronics & software, hacked together to create something new and beautiful.

    It feels like my first science experiment in primary school, and smells like stale basements and soldering irons.

    • fantastic! what have you hacked lately? and did your first science experiment work?! or was the uncertainty all part of the thrill? :)

  4. a few comments from twitter:

    From @dawnwiener
    @bigtripco I’ve grown weary of the constant search for definition around new media / digital culture. Get out there, make it and do it!
    >>@dawnwiener love it! & usually, yes, would agree. but part of #rbrt (& therefore #WTFisDigCult question) is to help drive intl policy shift.

    From @b00k1
    @bigtripco: Reckon “digital culture” began with MTV as it combined music with lifestyle for a defined audience via dig-media #WTFisDigCult
    >> @b00k1 that’s interesting. so you feel commercial music industry drove shift toward #WTFisDigCult? how would Nam June Paik feel about that?!
    @bigtripco John Cage and Stockhausen are similar to Paik, and Warhol etc. Creatives first “digital” second. MTV captured & drove DigCult
    >> @b00k1 curiouser and curiouser… so creative can’t be digital?! #WTFisDigCult
    @bigtripco You asked about Digital Culture. Any creative could be Digital, but DigCult is a wrapper around lifestyle and social interests
    >> @b00k1 surely anyone w/ $ could be digital too? to me, digcult is creative connection between maker/experience/audience #WTFisDigCult
    >> @b00k1 IMHO creative (any platform/medium) drives innovation, then commercial interests later observe ‘value’ & jump on board #WTFisDigCult
    @bigtripco Think I have diff idea of Culture v Commercial “Success”. I see DigCult as totally independent of success. It may succeed or not.
    >> @b00k1 wasn’t talking about success. my project is about how media arts & digital culture isn’t niche anymore,sure but that’s not same thing
    >> @b00k1 i know it’s hard to be so specific in 140ch, you should post on the blog to share your full context – rbrt.cc/wtfisdigcult

    and from @rosiemacphee
    – S’not a niche !! RT @bigtripco digital culture & economic models http://t.co/QAec1IQk #WTFisDigCult
    >> @rosiemacphee agreed! but why? #WTFisDigCult

  5. I asked this of one of my classes a few weeks back and one wag answered :
    “It has something to do with fingers, right?” … to which another replied
    “Not necessarily so.”

    Very interesting discussion ensued with one bringing up the “Connecting : arts audiences online” website to help illustrate her argument … I was chuffed!

  6. I’ll just mention one example of digital culture.

    Touring cyclists are people who ride around the world on bikes. Prior to the digital era they would have spent weeks, months even years without encountering a like-minded person. They truly were very solitary nomads of the most profound kind.

    But today we can message from the Gobi desert and immediately connect with many thousands of people who are our community. There is no way that this could have existed before the advent of widespread digital connectivity.

    • Thanks Andrew, that is a thoroughly surprising and entirely #rbrt-appropriate addition! I’m a massive fan of cycling (there will be a bike rack on the campervan somewhere…) so, yes… I like that a lot!

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