Defining digital

A blank tablet and stylus

Digital is one of those terms that we all use, but what do we really mean when we are referring to it?

The One by One Phase 2 research, which will be published as a report very soon, highlights that museum people need a consistent set of terms, definitions and ways of understanding ‘digital skills’.

Some of this relates to help navigating the terminology around skills, as discussed in Bridget McKenzie’s think piece Musing on abilities: the meaning of four words. But it’s also about museum people having a better shared understanding of what they mean by digital.

We intend that the One by One project outputs will help with this, but for now it’s useful to share some interesting reflections around how digital is interpreted by the cultural sector.

  • Digital consultant Chris Unitt draws a distinction here between digital technology used for administrative purposes and artistic/mission-driven digital activity.
  • James Cowdery, Head of Digital Arts Programming at the Southbank Centre, defines their recent events and commissions through the lens of a Digital ABC – a programme of digital art, broadcast and community.
  • The Modelling cultural value within new media cultures research report, written by Andrew Dewdney, Victoria Walsh and Emily Pringle and funded by the AHRC, is extensive but worth a read. Pages 9 and 10 are directly relevant as they discuss how through their research, it became clear that the term ‘digital’ was predominantly being understood and discussed within arts and heritage in four distinct but overlapping modes: the digital as a tool; the digital as a medium / media; the digital as technology; and the digital as culture.