I was recently thinking about something which turned into a really interesting conversation with Justine about something that affects both of us, (and perhaps some of you), not just in our art practices but also our personal lives and preferences and that something is the particular time span in which we were born and the technological advancements during our life time.
If a Digital Immigrant is someone who has come into the digital world (perhaps my parent’s generation; already adults during the switchover from analogue to digital), and a Digital Native is the generation of my son, born into a world where digital technology already exists and is commonplace in the home, then what is the term for those of us who are in between? For those of us born between the early 70s to the mid 80s, slap bang in the changeover from analogue to digital?
We are not entirely analogue, nor entirely digital, as we grew up, technology grew up with us, going from something hardly anybody had or even seen, to something commonplace, maturing and changing just as we ourselves were. We speak ‘tech’ fluently and use it as a part of everyday life with little or no struggle, however, we have a strong ( pehaps nostalgic) appreciation for the handmade, the one-off.
The art friends I have spoken to about digital art while agreeing that digital art can take as long as, be as beautiful and relevant as and need as large a skill base as the hand or physically made, still favour the handmade object over the digital product, I don’t think it is just to do with the issues surrounding the multiple ( which is the original and which is the copy, and how do you put a value on something that can be repeated infinitely), but it is like we put more value on something that is physically pen to paper rather than stylus to tablet. I wonder if this weighting is because our lives, our formative years were spent in the changeover between analogue and digital technologies.
As a child many of us were relatively low-fi, in my house the technologies available for recreation were the radio, record and tape player and the occasional television – not a permanent fixture in my house. That childhood is relatively similar to that of the previous generation, that of our parents; there were analogue technologies but they were few and there was no reliance on them to be our constant companions and keep us amused most of the time.
However as we grew up, so did technology, videos and the video-camera became more commonplace (not in my house but in some of my more affluent friends’ families), and then came the massive shift from analogue to digital, from tape to CD, during this time parallel importing came into it’s own and so technology became accessible and affordable. Then technology came in leaps and bounds, during my teens people began using expensive brick-like cellphones, which rapidly shrank and became smartphones, large boxy computers shrank into laptops and the everyday use of the internet (another piece of witchcraft I would never have dreamed of in my childhood) became commonplace.
What I wonder is how this shift in technology and being in the generation that experienced that shift has affected us. We are the mediators between Digital Natives and the older Digital Immigrants, we can access and appreciate both digital and analogue technologies and remember what it was like both pre and post digital revolution, able to see the drawbacks and benefits of each system.
We are like a Digital Immigrant in that we have learned to use technology as it comes to us, but different too because we never experienced adolescent or adult life entirely without it. We are also like Digital Natives in that we can easily adapt to the fast paced shifting and screen based existence that the Digital Native generations are born into, but different again too because we perhaps aren’t as reliant on it, or take it all with a grain of salt. We are pieces of both but not entirely either.
This inbetween-ness, this mediating position between the two gives us a different outlook from either the immigrant or the native, we are able to see both sides of the fence at one, able to navigate between the two modes as necessary, able to see the crossovers and the spaces between them. We‘re able to mediate between the Immigrants and the Natives and have a place in each culture, combining elements of either to see the possibilities of both.