Digital Media Will Fuck You Up was the title of a great presentation (watch the video below or on given by Mark Comerford (@markmedia, teacher of new media and an information consultant) during the Young Leaders Social Media Café 01 that took place in Beirut, on March 6, 2010.

Mark’s presentation on the digitalization process and the shift in the way we see and approach the world around us was so great that I couldn’t live blog it (I’m quite new in conference live blogging, stimulated by Ethan Zuckerman’s post “The Art of Conference Blogging”).

First of all, the title was catching, provocative and unconventional. Three characteristics that I love.

Second, the presentation itself was very dynamic and fluid. Mark used Prezi, an astonishing presentation tool that makes presentation non-linear, intriguing and captivating, unlike powerpoint and keynote. I’ve heard about this tool before, but I never had the chance to see it in action. A very tempting tool and I recommend giving it a try.

Third, Mark is a non-conformist guy. He does not shy away from exploring the limits of digital media and express his ideas very frankly, often provocatively, but always smartly. Mark is also Irish (not like the fake African “hero” Bono) and as you probably know, we Arabs have always been supportive of the Irish liberation struggle and inspired by their long battle for self-determination.

The most important lessons that I took away from Mark’s presentation are as following:

  • Digitalization is the same sort of big shift like the one we’ve seen during the industrial revolution.
  • Digitalization is not a technological shift, but rather a deep and fundamental sociological shift in the way we perceive the world around us (society, ourselves, friends, power structures, institutions, etc.).
  • We are in a situation where both systems, the industrial one (the analog world) and the digital world, are coexisting and this affect us personally and societally.
  • Virtual is real (read my post about this idea analyzing the Yezzi Fock campaign, in Arabic). And as long as we are doing a division between the virtual world and the “real” world, we are fucked; because we will never grasp the shift that is happening on the economic, political, societal and personal level.
  • We are no longer walking around as isolated individuals. We walk around as invisible posses who are continuously surrounded all around by networks (think of your mobile phone and other smart devices) which are always weaving their way in and out of each other. This means that our connectivity increases a huge amount. And that changed dramatically the way communication is doing.
  • Network is the basic unit of communication. It’s the network that we need to reach, not the individual, because when we reach the network, the network will feed all the individuals within it.
  • This shift is also about mobilty. We are mobile communicating with our networks all the time.
  • Some people may say here, especially in bandwidth-constrained environment, that they are not always connected to a network as they do not have permanent access, nor 3G network or wifi. However, what is important is not what is now, what is really important is the trajectory, where we are on our way to.
  • Think of the way we were used to taking pictures and the way we do it now; think also about the way we are writing our diaries. Diaries are no longer locked away and hidden from the intriguing eyes of our family and friends, the diaries of today are made public to the world (blogs, tweets, facebook updates).

    Taking pictures before and now.

  • The shift here is not a shift from writing diary on paper to writing them on a computer. It is not a technical shift, but a shift in our perception of the world and ourselves.
  • The pre-digital era point of departure was everything is private unless I make it public, digital world point of departure is everything is puhlic unless I make it private. And these are very different ways of approaching the world.
  • The make-it-public nature of the digital era is changing everything radically, because if we are already used to do this as individuals, we will demand that our society do the same and adopt the everything is public unless it is made private.
  • This shift in our approach will create conflicts and cause problems to people in power who are not comfortable with it. Online censorship, surveillance, repression are the reactions of the people in power to this shift.
  • What is a “friend” in our world of today? The digitalization process is making virtual friends much more real! (think of your facebook friends and all the friendships that you’ve build online).
  • Tools are not important, it is the context in which you use the tools that is important.
  • Do not trust web companies. All companies need to feed the greed, that’s what they do. Don’t make the tools control you, you need to understand them in order to control them. And the only way you can do that is by understanding the deeper context in which they are being used.
  • It’s not about the tools, it’s all about strategy. If you get the context and the strategy you will know then which tools you can use and which not.
  • Strategy is not about the web, mobile is much more important. Compass and location based devices and services (think about twitter location, Google buzz‘s Nearby, Youtube or WordPress geotagging of your content.) are changing everything and this is not because you will be able to know where you are – since you already know it even if you do not grasp the context of your location – but because of the data that will know where you are and what are you doing at the moment. Consequently, you will know where you are in relation to data (think here about the augmented reality and the layering of data). Layering data on top of geographical location means that you will be able to link the data with the place where you are at the moment.
  • augmented-reality-paris.jpeg
    Augmented Reality (Paris)

For all this, digital will fuck your mind up on every single level, and it already did! Don’t you feel it too? What do you think about this?

p.s: this post will be soon available in Arabic.