Reading the Digimodernist World

Digimodernism, as explained by Alan Kirby, represents a new form of textuality, in which the divisions between author, reader, producer, and other roles of a traditional text are blurred. The consumer becomes interactively submerged into a text, which is neither constant nor enduring; instead, this text is engaging in a way that promotes participation rather than passivity. Examples of digimodernist works include Wikipedia, Big Brother, and a multitude of videogames which follow multilinear narratives. To be materially possible, works that fall under the umbrella of digimodernism require a use of technology; as Kirby states, “it’s produced by fingers and thumbs and computerization” (Kirby 53).

Though this article discusses a range of examples of how digimodernism exists in today’s world, a case of interest is Kirby’s analysis of technology’s impact on reading, especially among newer generations. Many have examined the phenomenon that today’s youth have seemingly lost both the interest and the ability to read, in the traditional sense of the idea. This criticism however relies on the assumed prestige of published works, and ignores the fact that individuals now spend more time engaging with written material through technology. Kirby argues that this new form of expression lacks complex mental engagement, and that the brain, through the bright light of the screen, becomes too distracted to be able to remember or enjoy the material content. In a counter-point, it is notable to add that texts from pre-electronic periods, including Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, were also greatly misunderstood by their respective audiences. Through this criticism, Kirby calls online methods of education into question. Considering the fragmentary and discontinuous characteristics of internet reading, how does the knowledge translate to the reader? This question’s importance is heightened by the fact that many printed textbooks now mirror characteristics of Internet reading, through using a subdivided layout. Being aware of this criticism, as a student in the modern world, is highly valuable; being able to analyze one’s own method of acquiring information is an opportunity for growth not only as an intellectual, but also for further submergence within the context of the material itself.

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