Colorful words against a black landscape. At the top, it reads, "The More You Know". At the bottom, it reads, "The More You Suffer", indicating learning about digital rhetoric is a necessary pain.

“Digital” Ruined My Childhood Innocence




Jordan Johnson

After a particularly headache-inducing class session seeking to bring computer science theory to a class of mostly English majors, I made a quick trip home to see my grandmother. I was helping her sort through junk and papers when I found a relic of my childhood. In my hands was a purple digital Hello Kitty watch that I got from my McDonald’s Happy Meal. I was in awe. The feeling did not last long. Within five minutes, memories of class flooded my mind. I could no longer reminisce about my nine-year-old innocence. Thinking about the digital watch made me think of the theory of digitality. Naturally, I was not happy.

In the age of technology, we are constantly reminded of how we are now a high-tech culture. Everyone can name digital items (e.g.: Macbook) and their functions (e.g.: The Macbook is a portable version of a desktop computer). Few people know what it means to be digital and the rhetoric behind the concept. I was given the (un)fortunate opportunity of being a part of the latter group.

As someone forever cursed with this knowledge, I extend it to you, reader.

Digital vs. Analog

When you hear the word “digital”, you most likely think of anything that is electronic. This is especially the case if you belong to the more recent generations of technological natives, such as Millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Our acclimation with sophisticated technology makes us associate “digital” with screens and Wi-Fi.

Technological rhetorician Doug Eyman would scoff at such an idea. He would utilize ten other definitions, along with computational philosophy, to explain the concept like a scholar would. I am not Doug Eyman. You will get the SparkNotes version.

Before you can understand the word “digital”, you must understand its antonym “analog”. Analog technology revolves around the concept of simulacrum, or the representation of a reality. A traditional watch with hour, minute and second hands, for instance, are representations – an analogy – of the current time. Eyman notes in his work “Defining and Locating Digital Rhetoric” that analog technology contains similarity, proportion and continuity in its values. Here, you can think of waves and their flow. There is a brief, smooth transition between one wave peak to the next one. 

In contrast, digital technology employs a system that uses separate and distinct values. Computers process information through a system of 1s and 0s known as binary digits, which are the fundamental building blocks of digital communication. This technology does not just encompass computer-based systems. An abacus, for example, is an old-school calculator with beads in certain positions that represent 1 or 0. When it comes to digital technology, think of square steps. There is a harsh, finite up and down motion, with no awkwardness in between, like with analog signals. Analog technologies are often converted into digital technologies, like with clocks. 

Why Should I Care about What’s Digital?

In the same reading, Eyman challenges the idea that the transition from analog to digital is not that big of a deal. This argument is far from the truth. The term “digital” relates to our physical interactions, such as writing, with the world around us. This means that our own hands employ digitality (think of the word “digits”, which refers to our fingers). Since writing employs digitality, we can even trace back early digital technology to hieroglyphs. From these early technologies, we continually evolved to where we are now, in the land of the iPads. Literacy always involves a physical, multimedia aspect that links modernity with the history of written communication. 

Defining the digitized landscape highlights how these technologies shape and extend our traditional understanding of communication, information processing and representation. I suppose learning about digital rhetoric builds well-rounded netizens – but at what cost to my memories of childhood innocence? 


One response to ““Digital” Ruined My Childhood Innocence”

  1. […] rhetorician Doug Eyman’s musings. Previously, I discussed the meaning of “digital” and how it ruined a rediscovered childhood relic. Now, I am plagued with a discussion of digital literacy just from opening up my […]

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