In Tara McPherson’s piece, Digital, we are called to rethink the term “Digital” in its historical context. To start off McPherson emphasis’ the orgin of the word digital bringing the reader back to 300 BC and the abacus. She also uses Morse Code and Braille as more recent examples. When trying to consider an even more recent example my mind went to cell phones because we use “our digits” – this is obviously wrong, just my generational influence/mind at play.
Another thing Tara McPherson points out in the piece is the difference between Electronic analog computers and Digital computers. The difference that she emphasis’ is a matter of how electronic analog computers work with relationships used to “simulate dynamic processes” and relationships. The example that came to mind in order to understand the description is the 1983 movie with Matthew Broderick WarGame. In the film the computer (which the give a human name, giving it a human characteristic) plays war games and runs simulations for the US government. Besides the political undertones it also shows how we treat computers with human sympathy sometimes.
The similarity however is their digital connection to humanity. Analog represents continuity while digital is a process of discrete (ones and zeros) unit bits. This computer can be on of off unlike the analog.
A third thing that Tara McPherson argued in her piece Digital was the question of not what is digital but “how did the digital emerge” dominantly in our contemporary world? In her own words she is able to explain that while this digital age was growing, changing and shifting so was our culture as they were able to mirror one another on various ways. Undertones of our racism, World War II, neoliberalism, and the rise of modern genetics all mirror in our terminology.
It took me till the end of the first paragraph to grasp what Tara McPherson meant when she explained the origin of the word digital, or digit. I understand that “digit” is a single number or a finger in non-tech form but how this related to technology was another step for me visually. Towards the end it seemed to be more acceptable to relate early technology like the examples she gave to modern computers. These objects all use the discrete number or symbol in order to function – ones and zeros.
Understanding the difference between digital and analog was difficult from the beginning. The definitions were not clear cut in my mind. The wording that initially tripped me up was how the slide rule was connected with the games and simulations. I guess it’s because they are separate from one another, one is simulation is not directly connected to the next set of rules.
The question I have is about the continuation of this trend. As our culture and our ways and knowledge continue to develop and change we will be fronted with things that may not seem prevalent not. Is this community of technology, how will our culture continue to effect technology?