Our Digitally Infused Reality Needs a New Language to Describe it

The barriers between the digital world and our physical existence continue to fall but our language lacks the necessary vocabulary to describe the new reality that is emerging.

What's the Latest Development?


When you see urban graffiti with a Twitter hashtag or a QR code protest sign, it becomes clear that things once isolated to digital media have become important parts of our physical existence. Yet our language lacks terminology for these physical manifestations of digital information, says the Atlantic's social media theorist Nathan Jurgenson. Dualisms like talking face-to-face vs. texting, cyberwar vs. real war, cybersex vs. real sex and shopping at a mall vs. shopping online are becoming ever-less tenable distinctions. As our artificial barriers, supported by our terminology, fall apart, we will need a new language to express our new reality. 

What's the Big Idea?

Jurgenson's solicitations for new terminology that describe this emerging reality, where boundaries between the digital and the physical fade into nonexistence, have yielded general ideas such as "The New Aesthetic" and "Next Nature," but something is left wanting. "These are not digital objects becoming real; these objects were always in our reality. What we are experiencing is not a Matrix-like teleportation trick, but a rearrangement, a different flavor of information," said Jurgenson. As the digital and physical become one, our world is increasingly enmeshed, imploded, overlapping and interpenetrating. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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