Wed. Jan 29th, 2020

The digital world is not liquid, it is wet | Trends

A dense and penetrating moisture of zeros and some soaks everything, and makes even the most consistent soften. If the constructions that we have been building for centuries were cracked by the tensions of the new, it could, at least, contain the collapse by stabbing them; but if what happens is that the structure softens due to this digital humidity, there are no struts that contain the crumbling. We live today this disconcerting situation of inconsistency of what until now stood firm and harbored us.

And we have to adapt to live in this humid world, in which the atomic matter, previously solid, is penetrated by zeros and ones, forming a plastic and oozing paste. After the collapse, the world that we will have to lift and shape must be taking advantage of the molding of this malleable mixture of atoms and bits.

However, the spectacle of the general softening of everything that was firm support of our certainties is still disturbing. A very expressive case is the loss of confidence in what we see. What the screen shows us (window to see the world today) is the condensation of the fog of zeros and ones on the cold surface of the screen glass, and those minimal, but visible, drops are the pixels. And, just as they condense, they evaporate and disappear. So inconsistent and fleeting is what we see, since evaporated vision can, with ease, recombine the strings of zeros and ones and alter what has been seen when it again condenses in pixels on the screen.

It is a manifestation of digital orality. Written culture gave persistence to the word. With writing, the spoken word, faint and fleeting vibrations of the air, is fixed in lasting strokes that are shown before the eyes, with the objectivity of the distance between the reader and the word turned into an object, which can even be held with the hands (touch) and experience the sense of possession. Well, orality has returned – digital orality – with a very powerful language with which to describe and narrate the world, everything it contains and happens in it: that image we see on the screen is condensation (fog of pixels) of the expiration of a detailed description oral (digital) of all its details. To the point that, just as easily as in oral narration, any detail can be changed in the story without leaving a trace (those eyes are no longer green, but black).

The creative power of this language is so phenomenal that it never ceases to surprise us and even overwhelm us. The loss of certainty of what we see comes to us very directly. The most recent, rapidly extended impact (deepfake), beyond the cinematographic trick, it is the replacement of the face of a person in a video by that of another, so that you see what he has not done and hear what he has not said (then falsify the identifying mark of the voice is also possible).

Our culture is the result of the imposition of visibility on orality, what can be seen about what is heard, what can be put forward and not just said. Make see (also key to the work of science). Therefore, given this reinterpretation of orality, it will be necessary to create ways of providing trust, new forms of authority, competent narrators, personal autonomy through education … A great challenge to build a world with other resources and other architecture different from those of the world that has fallen apart.

Antonio Rodríguez de las Heras He is Professor Carlos III University of Madrid

Written culture gave persistence to the word. (…) Well, orality has returned – digital orality – with a very powerful language with which to describe and narrate the world, everything it contains and happens in it.


Life in digital It is an imagined scenario that serves for reflection, it is not a prediction. For him move the alephites, prosthetic beings, in continuous connection with the digital Aleph, since the Network is a phenomenal contraction of space and time, like the Borgian Aleph, and not a mesh.

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