The image shows the double meaning between digital (technological) and digital (physical touch)

Digital: An Open Word




In the English language, there are multiple words that carry different meanings depending on their context. I like to consider those words as “open words”. The premise of this label is to express how different a word can be when discussed. When thinking about the word ‘digital’, many of our minds direct towards a technological standpoint. As a growing society, we look at the word digital and quickly think of an electronic device. When diving deeper into digital systems, they are all consisting of discrete values.

Not to say that this word cannot reference electronic devices, but it is such a grand word with a twist in meaning. Delving into all things ‘digital’, we must break down the word itself.

Let’s Use Our Digits

In “Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice”, rhetorician Douglas Eyman breaks down the meaning of digital. From a technological standpoint, it is rather discrete in a numerical sense, but breaking down the word reveals much more.

Taking apart this word, another is then revealed: digit. The word digit is a synonym for ‘fingers’. When taking that into consideration, it can change the meaning of digital as a whole. If digits mean fingers, which are used for the sense of touch, then digital can mean all things physical. Since this is the case, handwritten work can be considered as such.

There are multiple systems, not just technological, that can then be considered. For example, morse code and the braille alphabet are both considered to be digital. The reasoning for this is the use of digits when they’re in use.

Taking a step back and taking in all this information, opens up the thought of other words in the English language. Multiple words can mean completely different things than what they tend to be assigned to. Though it may be an interesting topic, this blog isn’t ready to open that can of worms just yet.


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