Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is Digimodernism?

As I explained in my previous post, I have turned to the theory of digimodernism to examine Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" in context of today's new media paradigm. Digimodernism is a theory developed by British cultural critic Alan Kirby (see picture at right) to describe new media technology's impact on culture, more specifically on texts. According to Kirby, digimodernism is the successor to postmodernism, which he says mainly ended around the beginning of the current millennium.

Kirby first presented this theory in a 2006 article entitled "The death of postmodernism and beyond." In 2009 Kirby expanded these ideas into a book, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. Most recently, Kirby published an article entitled "Succesor states to an empire in freefall" in the May 2010 issue of the British periodical Times Higher Education. According to these sources, here are the main ideas of digimodernism:
  • In late 90's and early 2000's new technologies permanently altered the relationship between authors, texts, and readers, succeeding postmodernism as the primary cultural milieu.
  • Because of new media, audiences now have unprecedented ability to alter the content of texts, reducing the role of the traditional single author and making texts unstable and ephemeral.
  • Digimodernists texts are characterized by "onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence, and anonymous, social and multiple authorship."
  • Prime examples of digimodernist texts include the internet as a whole, blogs, reality television shows like American Idol where viewers decide the narrative progression, news programs that rely on viewer-submitted comments, etc.
  • Replacing the uncertainty or self conscious irony of postmodernism, the typical emotional state of digimodernism is the trance, being completely absorbed in and becoming the text.
So what does this have to do with Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"? Read my next post to find out.


  1. I don't think that in an ideological sense digimodernism replaced Postmodernism in a way described in the last bullet paragraph. Digital technology has simply wiped out meaning in general. The general atmosphere is, people are to difficult to deal with, they cost a lot, in a way dating has become a luxury so why bother. There is porn which is good enough to convince the subconscious mind that one is actually having sex. Before you know it you've "seen it all" and attractive people become boring and rather uniform in appearance. The same is with knowledge and art. ALL of knowledge is now free and instantaneous. You can learn or become anything. Yet no one cares. No longer are there any limits to create meaning. Life without boundaries is meaningless and THAT is the era we are living in. An era where EVERYONE does art as to before only "artists" did art. There is a lot of everything which created legions of apathetics. The only solution is to turn away from human affairs and people in general. Regress, become like a caveman again, away from society, technology and people. Away from faces. A return to nature, and perhaps a bit more organic way of life where we severely limit our impact on the environment.

  2. Boundaries and limits create good art. But if you have free rein it becomes contrived, a sort of ego masturbation. The same goes with life in general. We find meaning only in the face of adversity or when we are severely limited. Otherwise life without boundaries renders itself meaningless. The internet tells our subconscious mind that the world is limitless which in turn renders our life meaningless. Boundaries define you and are a fertile soil for meaning. False narratives follow because the truth is that there is no meaning in meaning. That's why the limitlessness of the internet is braking down meaning. There never was any to begin with.