I had lunch with Iain with the other day and he was telling me how annoyed he was by the term 'Post Digital'. Or perhaps, more specifically, by how some people are using it. And, I must admit, I've been getting more and more embarrased by it myself.
Now, coining or promulgating a bit of jargon gives you no proprietary rights over it, I know that. It'll end up meaning whatever people want it to mean. But, just for the record, this is some of what I meant and what I didn't.
Post Digital was intended as a possible condition we might get to. A place where we're able to evaluate digital and analogue tools equally and fairly, from a position of equal familiarity and expertise. Right now, there are tiny handful of people qualified to do this. I'm not one of them. Tom might be.
And it's a condition – in the world – where most people have powerful and easy to use devices full of applications and services which work well and satisfyingly, where you can get all the media you want on all the screens you like. And where occasionally you might go, you know what, I'd rather have this thing printed out for me, or made into an object, or read to me by a robot in the shape of an egg.
To use a horribly inappropriate and over-weighty comparison I'm using Post Digital in the way that people might have used Post-War in 1913 or 1938. They were speculating, hoping, not describing something real. It's an idea not a reality. We've not had the war yet.
Post-Digital was not intended as a sop for the complacent. It's not supposed to suggest that 'digital' is a solved problem or yesterday's fad. It's not a suggestion that digital* is just another channel. It's not supposed to be a synonym for integrated, 360, channel-neutral or any of that stuff. Doing some telly AND a website does not make you Post Digital.
The only way to be a Post Digital business is to be a thoroughly, deeply, massively digital one. To be digital in culture not just in capabilities. To know how to iterate in public, to do experiments not research, to recognise that it's quicker and better to code something than it is to describe it in meetings. You need to be part of the wider digital culture, to have good sharing habits, to give credit where it's due, and at the very least to know how to do ellipses in Processing.
Post DIgital was supposed, if anything, to be a shout against complacency, to make people realise that we're not at the end of a digital revolution, we're at the start of one. The end game was not making a website to go with your TV commercial and it's not now about making a newspaper out of your website. Post Digital was supposed to be the next exciting phase, not a return to the old order. It's the bit where the Digital people start to engage in the world beyond the screen, not where the old guard reasserts itself.
If I'd paid more attention in history I'd probably be able to throw in a Russian Revolution analogy at this point – possibly something about the Mensheviks.
So, to the extent that Post Digital is being used as a cover for complacency or sloth I apologise. If you think it means we're entering a period of post-revolutionary stasis you're wrong. Sorry for the confusion.
Equally, if you're working inside a business, trying to get them to really, thoroughly understand digital (and see how much they still don't get it) and I've made your job harder, then I'm also sorry. In mitigation I might point out I wasn't writing / talking about advertising or media agencies, I almost never am, I was talking about the world, a possible world.
However, I remain delighted that people are thinking about Post Digital as an idea; imagining products and services that thoroughly, competently, delightfully integrate the Analogue and the Digital. That's great. Keep doing that.
The other thing, not so much.
(* I'm also deeply aware that using – Digital – like this is horrible. Like it'a a thing. But I can't see a way round it. Sorry.)