Nonsense about "Being Digital"; Other Suggestions

Subject: Nonsense about "Being Digital"; Other Suggestions
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 May 1995 00:30:00 PDT

Someone wrote (in a review of "Being Digital" by Negroponte):

> He suggests
>that the revolutionary state we now inhabit is one in which the *bit*
>is to be distinguished from the *atom*. That is, information
>encoded and transmitted electronically in binary form needs no
>material existence, whereas its physical realisation in print, film
>stock, or VCR is earth-bound and cumbersome. The bit can be
>transmitted instantly, globally, and virtually cost-free, whereas its
>tangible version in atoms immediately requires physical production,
>distribution, and storage. The future, he claims, is digital.

Does it strike anyone else as bizarre that digital advocates--dig-its for
short?--are most often quoted for the things they say that are nonsense?

The "bit" does not exist independent of a electronic medium and cannot be
transmitted anywhere, at any speed, without a fantastically expensive
infrastructure that requires physical production, distribution, storage,
and, oh yes, let's not forget, *marketing*.

I was going to rant a while but instead I'll refer anyone interested ... and
it probably should include anyone who avers an interest in technical
communications ... to two works:

1. "Amusing Ourselves to Death"--Neil Postman, 1985, Viking, ISBN 0 14
00.9438

2. "The Image" by Daniel Boorstin (my copy not handy but recently reissued
for its 25th anniversary with an afterword by--*gag*--George Will).

Postman is a professor of communications and has some terrific, important
things to say about what "being digital" has meant so far and how it is
changing public discourse.

Boorstin was the Librarian of Congress and wrote "The Discoverers" and "The
Creators" and a *great* three-volume US history ... but even so, "The Image"
is the one to read if you're reading only one. *ASTOUNDINGLY* prophetic
about the replacement of the real event with the pseudo-event, the
supplanting of the person of importance with the "celebrity" (who Boorstin
defined as "someone who is well-known for being well-known" -- Kato who?)
and, relevant to this discussion, the fake experience (that can be packaged
and sold to the masses) as a substitute for the real experience (which has a
nasty way of requiring that you unplug your TV or modem, making you
unavailable to advertisers).
John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)

The Bill of Rights--The Original Contract with America
Accept no substitutes. Beware of imitations. Insist on the genuine articles.


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