"Post-Digital Culture"

UKOLN has a great list of blogs that relate to cultural heritage. From this list I had a look at the Open Culture blog from the Collections Trust. There is a lot of good material on this site and I spent a lot of time skimming the content. The article that jumped out at me though was called, “Here comes ‘Post-Digital’ Culture.” (http://openculture.collectionstrustblogs.org.uk/2010/01/28/here-comes-post-digital-culture. ) In it, Nick Poole argues that professionals in museums, libraries and archives are beginning to be “a little bit over digital.” He is not arguing that these institutions are going to, or that they should, stop putting their content online, but that we are approaching a post-digital world, where our digital lives will be (if they aren’t already) as meaningful and as apparent as our physical lives. He argues that the two will begin to be co-dependent and there will be less of a divide between the two worlds. In the context of cultural heritage institutions, Poole argues the digitality or physicality of our “stuff” and how we deliver it, will just be “background facts.” He goes on to say that the new digital world will be so intertwined with the physical that “It would be as anachronistic to think of something as ‘Digital’ , or to talk of ‘going online’, as it would be to look forward to a cocktail and a cigarette on an intercontinental flight.”

Quite honestly, I don’t understand his metaphor and I don’t totally agree with what he is saying, although I do think he makes some other good points. But seriously, the metaphor of smoking on planes, I suppose he means that to talk about going online will be out dated, just as the idea of smoking on a plane is.
However, you can not smoke on planes, and we are still going to be going online in the future, even if we are spending most of our time in this environment and there is less of a distinction from going online and being off line. Anyway, I don’t think that the new digital world will be as much of this hybrid, sci-fi sort of reality where we are synchronously experiences digital and physical environment as he portrays.

However, I think that some of what he says about how the “Post-digital” environment will affect cultural heritage institutions I do find interesting. He basically is saying the “infatuation with digital” is coming to an end. That already it is something expected of these institutions, but that the funding for digitization projects is running out. New funding will involve more focus on the collections, the mission statements and goals of institutions, of providing meaningful content and experience. These types of projects will of course involve digital collections, but the funding won’t be for that purpose alone. I think this an important point in the sustainability of digital collections. The purpose behind the digitization should go beyond just getting it online, and should be tied to the physical collections in a way that falls in place with the mission statement and goals of the institution. Poole also talks about “format-agnosticism” in which he means the constantly changing standards and software can not be the focus of any cultural heritage project and that institutions need to be open and aware to a variety of different formats (including physical). Also, he addresses that in a recessional economy, it is going to become more important for LAMs to share resources and infrastructures. As we have talked about and read in class, this is important to the sustainability of these institutions, but it is easier said than done.

Overall, Poole brought up some really good points, that I will think about as I finalize my project about sustainability in small scale digital cultural heritage initiatives. But I think he is a bit of an alarmist when it comes to his idea of this post-digital world, and I don’t believe that LAMs efforts at meaningful and purposeful digitization will have been in vain.