Lost in digital connections

Into the digital era

The digital media have changed our rhythms and styles of lives and today digital electronic devices play a crucial role in our societies. The ‘computational’ world is constantly overlapping the ‘physical world’, since analogue has been transformed into digital. There was a time when printing photos and having photo albums was such an exciting thing to do. I remember myself as a child looking at old albums of family pictures and feeling the pleasure of having a ‘printed’ memory in my hands.  This is something that does not happen very often in the present world. Digital technology has made everyone able to store files on personal computers, phones and even ‘memory cards’. It is possible, for example, to create online folders (such as Google drive’s folders) so as to share photos or documents with others far away from you. Still printed books and newspapers are not as much required as they were in the past. The digital has indeed revolutionised our ways of living and is daily shaping the way we interact with each other. It can, therefore, be seen as constitutive of everyday life. People’s habits are changing as a result of this digital innovation. Reading e-books or articles online is, for istance, becoming more and more popular. The importance of technology does not only shape reading habits and publishing decisions, but it also influences the readers as well as the writers. Many changes are taking place across societies. The static desktop is now a mobile tablet in a world of ‘screens’ (the tab – phone -, the pad – tablet – and the board -TV), where also the ‘telephone’ has been reshaped into a ‘smart’ media device.

Since all these changes has had and still have a great impact on society, it is important to keep in mind that we should be aware of the freedom we have in using media devices, such as smart phones. As M. Berry writes, “our phones become smart phones, and as such become media devices that can also be used to identify, monitor and control our actions and behaviour through anticipatory computing. While seemingly freeing us from the constraints of the old wired-line world of the immobile telephone, we are also increasingly enclosed within an algorithmic cage that attempts to surround us with contextual advertizing and behavioural nudges.” (David M. Berry, 2014)

Freedom or restriction?

It goes without saying that digital media has given us the possibility to have access to any kind of information making our lives faster and easier. Now, you can “share” / “like” / “follow” everything you want from wherever you are. The question is: how much freedom do we actually have? Digital technology has altered the flow of time and transformed space connections. As the Indian novelist Dawesar says, most have the sensation that “the time’s arrow is pointing everywhere and nowhere at once”, in fact the “digital now is not the present,because it’s always a few seconds ahead, with Twitter streams that are already trending and news from other time zones. This isn’t the now of a shooting pain in your foot or the second that you bite into a pastry or the three hours that you lose yourself in a great book. This now bears very little physical or psychological reference to our own state. Its focus, instead, is to distract us at every turn on the road. Every digital landmark is an invitation to leave what you are doing now to go somewhere else and do something else.” Yet whatever we do online is under control, monitored and registered. Someone out there is being paid to observe and analyse our ‘digital’ behaviour. At this point, it becomes essential to consider the space of the so-colled privacy. According to Belly, “the reality is that there is no possibility that an individual, even one as ruggedly individualistic as the neo-liberal subject, can singularly resist the collection of ‘data exhaust’ that we leave as we go about our daily life and the computational means to watch, analyse, predict and control us.”

From this point of view, the online world is a place where that feeling of freedom we have is clearly converted into something which cannot be in our control anymore.Let’s take into account the case of online advertising which is constantly increasing and looking for future consumers. Every time you go on the Internet, check your email or use social media you can find several kinds of advertaisments in different languages depending on where you are on the planet. This online marketing takes place in many forms, such as  email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing and mobile advertising. Internet can easily be used as a medium of persuasion. What’s more is that when you are abroad you have advertisments in the language of that specific foreign country. This might make us think about the power of this marketing and the fact that it is always before our eyes as if it follows all our movements and all the directions we take. Thus, in conclusion, this freedom we have can be very little as our life ‘moment’ and moves are being, more or less, lost in digital connections.

REFERENCES

David M. Berry, Critical Theory and the Digital, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014

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