In a digital state, things are, or are not.
This is the essence of digital, binary at its core, on and off states, the intellectual foundation of logic. But in our increasingly digital state, things aren't that simple.
Let's start with what we hoped.
Simon Pont, author of The Better Mousetrap, old friend of mine, connected across ages and oceans, asked a question:
What is the Digital State, and what is our Digital State of Mind?
It was to be a book, a book based on a question, framed by Simon, one that needs lots of answers.
Many voices in one text, heteroglossia as Bakhtin called it, like the web itself, amalgamated from polyphony. Thirteen others, [so-called] leaders of thought, writers, practitioners, observers, marketers, financiers, publishers, entrepreneurs. A witches coven, a baker's dozen, unlucky for some. Enough relevant diversity to reflect the discourse of the time.
Physical and digital worlds are enmeshed, if they were ever something separate. Perhaps this new Cartesian duality was always flawed. Confusion, fear and false promises abound. That's where the fun is, to think at the edge of the present, about the possible. To help dream it real.
He asked me to write the first chapter, a gift bestowed by linearity in a book about a non-linear world. The book comes together over email, and then seems to suddenly appear, a proof to be read. A publishing date. A book. A treebook. An Ebook. The shift from digital to physical and back again.
I answered the question based on my obsessions, as we always do. The impact on ideas of media that has no form, or any form. Ideas moving at the speed of Twitter. Content ubiquity and an increasingly global sense of now. The dissolution of boundaries, the emergence of a single media system. The role of the participant, formerly known as the audience, in shaping the ideas of the system. How marketing might evolve to reflect this new state, becoming useful and welcomed.
As a techno-meliorist, I believe things usually get better, thanks to technology. Confusion passes, and life gets longer, speech is amplified, babies die less often, oppression and corruption is exposed.
But as Simon points out, the binary nature of digital is also reflected in the way it 'double-handles' everything, creating new tensions:
Accelerating opposites, allowing new collectives to rally and shape, but allowing micro-cliques and atomization to spark and run riot. I think it's empowering all kinds of genuine self-expression, and fueling some borderline-unhealthy levels of self-delusion. It's bringing people together; it's pushing people apart. It's creating new feelings of belonging; it's driving new kinds of estrangement. It's making things happen fast and it's making things happen too fast.
'State' has a double meaning, a place defined by a governing structure and a condition: the state we're in. Information is more accessible to more people faster than ever before. The media of the masses can now equal the mass media in reach and volume. Demonstrations in Turkey, initially ignored by television, reach the world on Twitter. Everything online is public and permanent, refracted through a Prism of the present, captured for the future, to be used we know not how.
The book shows these dreams and fears, a look at the future through compound eyes. How we handle these tensions today will create the version of Digital State we get tomorrow. As I wrote in my chapter:
"The future is not the present, but is contained therein."