I bet you’ve gotten a little sick hearing the term digital. It’s paired with almost everything now- digital voice, digital currency, or the ephemeral digital space. In my last post on cybersecurity, I even used the phrase Digital Resilience. But what exactly is digital? It’s not an easy term to define, but perhaps the easiest way to understand its meaning is to compare it with its direct opposite- analogue.
Analogue can be described as a device, system, signal or information that is represented by a continuously variable physical quantity, such as voltage, volume, temperature etc. People generally experience the world through an analogous perspective. For example, sight, taste and touch can be regarded as analogue experiences. However, this does not mean the brain is only capable of analogue communication.
Analogue vs Digital
In the workplace as well as in my personal life, the choice between using digital or analogue is not so clear-cut. It depends on the activity I want to performCaruso, James J,C.P.A., C.G.M.A., & Lear, L. M., C.P.A. (2018). Digital vs. analog. Pennsylvania CPA Journal, 89(2), 22-26..
Capturing Information: I capture information through various means. Occasionally, I’d type information into my mobile phone or tablet. More often, I’d simply put pen to paper. For this activity, I find that using a digital device is quicker, but does not help me retain the information. Writing information into a piece of paper simply helps me process the information better, and this is especially true when I am taking down notes for study or memorisation. Analogue wins hands down!
Tasks Lists: Everybody knows that lists are chaotic and seldom represent their final form. When I put my tasks into paper, it gets scarred by so many eraser marks and strikethroughs, it quickly becomes incomprehensible. I’ve since started using Microsoft OneNote to do my task lists, which allows not only quick edits, but also equally quick Undos to save me from my stupidity. Digital wins hands down!
Planning and Brainstorming: Planning is often a team effort, whether it’s for a class project or a client discussion. When the brainstorming is fast and furious, I like to take notes on a laptop because I can type faster than I can write. However, it’s not so straightforward. When I need to visualise a workflow, or organise ideas into clusters, I find the marker and whiteboard indispensable. Manually drawing or writing out ideas has the added benefit of fluidity, allowing for free thinking and mind-mapping. It’s a tie between digital and analogue.
Calendar and Scheduling: I used to record my appointments on a desk calendar. It worked if I was diligent about the actual recording. However, since letting Google Calendar run my schedules, I’ve not looked back. The killer benefit, for me at least, is the ability to sync my schedules across all devices. Digital beats analogue easily.
Reading, Reviewing, and Editing: I am a little conflicted here and adopt two different styles. For works of fiction, I like to read from my Kobo eBook Reader. This is a digital device that provides an experience as close as possible to a physical book, utilising a technology called e-ink. The strict preference for eBook Readers over the latest electronic tablets already give me away. There is really nothing like a real book when it comes to literary enjoyment. On the other hand, I usually read non-fiction works on a real, physical book. That’s because I like to make all kinds of side notes in the margins, a luxury that digital devices still cannot deliver in a satisfactory way. Analogue wins this bout.
Communication: Digital communications make it far too easy to hide: ignoring email and SMS messages, flipping phone-calls to voicemail or setting the status of our personal communicators to either invisible or busy. Although these capabilities may give me the time and space I sometimes need, they do nothing for my personal and professional relationships. That said, digital communications have a lot of benefits, such as speed and clarity, that are too compelling to do away with. With some qualification, I’d say that digital holds the upper hand.
Digital- More Than Just Information Technology
It’s clear that our world consists of colliding parallel dimensions; the digital world is as ubiquitous as our analogue and physical world, and there is space in both worlds that we can learn to navigateJacobs, N., Cooper, R. (2018). Living in Digital Worlds. London: Routledge..
Unlike analogue, digital describes information which is measured in discrete units that are either on or off. These days, however, digital is also used whenever referring to computers or other forms of technology. This is justified as computers are binary by nature, processing information in the binary code of 1s and 0s.
When I talk about digital resilience, I am not merely talking about computers and the whole edifice of information technology. I am discussing Digital Culture instead, which is a topic I will cover in a future blog post.