What Digimodernism Entails and How It Is a Greater Post-Modern Movement

In his chapter entitled “The Digimodernist Text” from his book Digimodernism, Alan Kirby describes the key elements and principles of digimodernism. He defines it as “a new form of textuality” which engages the viewer more in the creation of meaning and as textuality made in collaboration with both the author and the audience (Kirby, 50). The core of digimodernism, according to Kirby, consists of onwardness, which can be described as continuous development, haphazardness, evanescence, a sense of fluidity in the text, reconstruction of textual roles, a digitized core element, and having multiple, social and anonymous authors or authorlike entities. Unlike traditional texts or even postmodern texts, the quality of the form is not important if it is engaging the viewer and contains some technological component. Kirby considers Espen J. Aarseth’s notion of “ergodic text” as a forerunner to digimodernism, as it asked the reader to—in “a nontrivial effort”— “traverse the text”, meaning going beyond the basic process of reading to fully indulge in the experience (Kirby, 53). He argues that what is lacking in the definition is the idea of context. Digimodernism, says Kirby, is simply the “tip of a cultural iceberg”, implying that digimodernism is emblematic of a wider cultural attitude towards media creation and consumption, thus characterizing it as collaborative (Kirby, 53). Some argue digimodernism isn’t dissimilar to post-1960’s theories and practices of media, which also made active use of the audience as participants; however, the participation is linked to the creation of meaning rather than the text itself. 

The way we create and consume art has changed dramatically as the Internet has evolved into the vast interconnected web it is today. Where for centuries art was a landscape for only the educated, the well off, or the lucky, never in history has art in all mediums been so user friendly and accessible. The elitist ideals of modernists are challenged under the current post-modern art culture; art in the 20thand 21stcentury has no right to be gatekeeping, and digimodernism is the evolution of some key post-modern principles. If texts like movies, paintings, theater and dance can be so available that each artist can be distinct in tone, message, and delivery, why can’t the audience also become an artist? The Internet has given people the power to create regardless of education or study of the arts because it is so far spread, rapidly evolving in terms of the simplicity of participation—the ability to contribute to the art community is only inhibited by lack of desire.

By the same token, it is difficult to predict where the culture will go . The exponential rate of cultural change makes it hard to determine how long themes will last. Since content can be shared so quickly, it is also consumed quickly. Therefore, works will be ever evolving with taste, and what audiences want can change even faster. However, by being participants in creation, the works change with attitudes, and audiences can be perpetually engaged as they mold their ideal piece to become what they want. 

Thus, we are led to question to what extent the original creator can control the outcome of their art in a digimodernist world. How much of an issue is that for an artist, and how would a public respond to a less interactive text? I believe the purpose of an artist is to create for others, but also to create for themselves. Is it an unbalanced trade to give significant control away from the creator? I think, in the end, each work or text or piece is controlled with the purpose of maintaining vision. The participation is just as essential to a work as much as its creator, and the digital engagement is what makes the digimodernist piece. It is fascinating to observe what technology has done to allow people to connect with culture in a different way, where they are not just subjects meant to respond but meant to collaborate.

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