What is Digital Culture – Experiences and Relationships in the Digital Age

by Karyen Chai

The digital culture is both a product and a result of the mechanization.  Referring to the summary of the recorded history, the invention of machines has allowed for the exponential development in all aspects. Whether the development has positive or negative impact is very much subjective. Yet one opinion is almost consistent: the development has radically changed the way of life, which brings about a cascade of secondary results in communication and relationships.

In the digital age, communication is no longer limited to face-to-face conversations. The time taken for a message to be sent and received shortened significantly. Physical distance becomes a negligible factor. With the modification of communication, relationships are redefined. Or are they? No doubt, with online networking resources such as Facebook, “friends” refer to the category of people whom one bothered enough to click the “accept as friend” button. Granted minimal information, shared experiences and contact are required in that relationship. However Facebook’s misprint does not erase the previously established distinction between “acquaintances” and “friends.” Should “friends” refer to the people who share sentiments, then “friends” are not possible without shared experiences. In which case, friends remained an exclusive club where the barrier is greater than the “ignore” button.

However, the digital age does not only speed up communication. New inventions are seeking to alter experiences every day. The generation that was hyped about black-and-white televisions is still around to make the most delicious lemon tarts and apple pies (to clarify, I mean our grandmothers, not Applebees). In less than 50 years, virtual experiences have leaped from fuzzy gray graphics to high definition three-dimensional projections. (Sometimes it seems that such digital images are better experienced than the real object which it was portraying.) And it does not seem like the computer programmers are stopping any time soon. Complete virtual experiences have long been an intriguing subject, and now it seems very plausible in the near future.

Tying in the renovated experiences with relationship, it appears that “friendship” can be established without actual physical encounter between “friends.” Virtual experiences are increasing competent in creating shared experiences between individuals. Would the virtual shared experience be sufficient to foster a bond beyond the superficial acquaintanceship? Should the weakening of interpersonal bonds be a concern, or is it an evolving form of society that we have to learn to accept?

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