The concept of post-digitality is maturing beyond the romantic notion of returning to pre-digital craft. Florian Cramer (“What is ‘Post-digital’?”) acknowledges that this is indeed a component of post-digitality but, when taken alone, “seems little more than a rerun of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, with its programme of handmade production as a means of resistance to encroaching industrialisation.” This “revival of ‘old’ media” and the corresponding “disenchantment with ‘digital’” are merely the starting points from which he builds a much more nuanced framework for future discourse on post-digitality. He describes the broader cultural context rather than dwelling on the new aesthetics or disciplines that are situated therein:
None of these terms—post-punk, post-communism, post-feminism, postcolonialism, post-apocalyptic—can be understood in a purely Hegelian sense of an inevitable linear progression of cultural and intellectual history. Rather, they describe more subtle cultural shifts and ongoing mutations. Postcolonialism does not in any way mean an end of colonialism (akin to Hegel’s and Fukuyama’s “end of history”), but rather its mutation into new power structures, less obvious but no less pervasive, which have a profound and lasting impact on languages and cultures, and most significantly continue to govern geopolitics and global production chains. In this sense, the post-digital condition is a post-apocalyptic one: the state of affairs after the initial upheaval caused by the computerisation and global digital networking of communication, technical infrastructures, markets and geopolitics.
Cramer delves into the elements that characterize post-digitality, first and foremost an attitude “against the universal machine,” followed by the “disruption brought upon by digital information technology has already occurred.” Then there’s the subsequent deconstruction of the teleology of “new-media” vocabulary and the hybridization that follows:
Consequently, ‘post-digital’ eradicates the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, in theory as well as in practice… Young artists and designers choose media for their own particular material aesthetic qualities (including artefacts), regardless of whether these are a result of analog material properties or of digital processing.
Cramer is writing in A Peer-Reviewed Journal About (APRJA), whose mission itself is a statement on post-digital publishing:
As an open-access research journal, APRJA is freely available without charge to the user and his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission to authors or the publisher (under a creative commons license).
APRJA seeks to publish new research that promotes a culture based on sharing, open distribution and the on-going exchange of ideas, but without losing sight of rigorous academic conventions of peer-reviewed publication.
Similar themes are found in the contemporary notion of metamodernism. Although the term was introduced by cultural theorists Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen, artist Luke Turner has taken up the mantle as co-editor of the online publication Notes on Metamodernism, which demonstrates this perspective through writing from a variety of disciplines, from art to economics. Unlike the journal Post-Digital Culture, the extent to which Notes on Metamodernism can be taken seriously as a research project—as it claims to be—rather than a content farm to elevate the visibility of its founders, is uncertain. But this simultaneous affect of cynicism and earnestness is precisely the unstable, oscillatory mode that the neologism was created to highlight. Turner clarifies metamoderism’s relationship to postmodernism as such (“Metamodernism: A brief introduction” on Queen Mobs):
...rather than simply signalling a return to naïve modernist ideological positions, metamodernism considers that our era is characterised by an oscillation between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism. We see this manifest as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism, a moderate fanaticism, oscillating between sincerity and irony, deconstruction and construction, apathy and affect, attempting to attain some sort of transcendent position, as if such a thing were within our grasp. The metamodern generation understands that we can be both ironic and sincere in the same moment; that one does not necessarily diminish the other.