Digimodern Text in an AI World

In chapter two of Alan Kirby’s book, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture, the reader is introduced to the concept of the digimodern text; primarily it’s attributes, relation to literature, and developing lexicon. When written in 2009, the internet was at the precipice of jumping off the proverbial ‘cliff’ and spreading its wings, soaring into the age of social media, machine learning, and open access technologies. Kirby describes the seven dominant features of digimodernism: onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence, reformulation and intermediation of textual roles, and anonymous social authorship. To put it simply, digimodernism is any cultural form that is affected by digitization through multiple contributors and media, creating a sort of hermeneutical free-for-all.

While reading the chapter, I found myself questioning Kirby’s views that “the political consequences of digimodernism are more likely to be desocialization and pseudoautism than an upsurge in eighteenth-century notions of democratic practice” (Kirby 54). It certainly seems as though he finds this era of digimodern text a ‘dumbing down’ of sorts where “digimodernism––through the Internet––triggers a skyrocketing rise in quantitative reading…it also reinforces a decline in qualitative reading as they become less capable of engaging mentally with complex and sophisticated thought expressed in written form” (Kirby 67). Even though I find these statements oversimplified, I believe this is a multi-layered topic worth investigating.

Since Kirby’s comments, the paradigm of digital technology has shifted, as explored in Literature in the Digital Age: An Introduction, a book written in 2015 by University of Toronto English professor Adam Hammond. In his book, Hammond explores a cultural shift to digital literary forms as well as how both traditional and digital scholarship should be placed in dialogue with each other. With the advent of sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit, we are now able to collaborate and attempt to come to a consensus on various topics. This is decidedly democratic, contradictory to Kirby’s view of what digimodernism would manifest. We are now moving even further, developing artificial intelligence with an ever expanding arsenal of possibilities to be uncovered and explored. Beauty is in the eye of the “viewser” and while we must certainly tread carefully in this new space, in the end the digital world will be what we
make of it.


Kirby, Alan. Digimodernism: how new technologies dismantle the postmodern and reconfigure our culture. New York: Continuum, 2009.

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