• Walter Dornstedt

Beep-beep-beep: now what?

Let me sing a lighter tune this time. Away from that humming about the dark side of our disruptive existence. A light-hearted outpouring about my encounter with what I will call the analiterate,

I hear beep, beep, beep ... now what do I do ?

the logical counterpart of the character that was often brought on stage at the end of the last century: the digital illiterate. Nowadays everybody thinks of himself to be tech savvy , but who dares to admit that he no longer understands our analogue world?


My son is studying Pyschology in Leiden, a beautiful old university town with an impressive list of alumni: Albert Einstein, the Soldier of Orange, the current Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, and our very own Prince Pilsner. I once played a season there myself. My son qualifies as 'millennial', whilst I like to pronounce myself a member of the 'no future generation'. Since the beginning of his life I have, from an almost neurotic generosity, overwhelmed him with all sorts of digital toys. On the one hand, this had to do with the fact that I professionally , had very easy access to it ('You should try this, maybe interesting ...’), but probably also because I wanted to give him what was missing in my childhood: toys of the future. All the consecutive generations of Nintendo's, Playstations, Xboxes – flowing over into a stream of ever larger and more capable media players and mobile phones. All of that has led him, as an exponent of his generation, to an internalized mediatisation, in which all functional content and messages reach him in digital form – being almost exclusively receptive to it. This does not mean he is entirely socially wrong, and he is certainly not pathologically schizophrenic, but his observations - and therefore his interactions - are constantly being digitally accelerated as they quickly switch to from one to the other via an exciting web of interconnected high-resolution screens. An example: an offer on pepper.com appears on his smartphone, after which the app, seamlessly transported to a laptop, is linked to a review site, to you-tube and, at the same time, to the commercial counter where the deal can be settled. If something does not go well, there is something to complain about or to solve, whatsapps, e-mails or completed forms fly over the networks at high speed. I hear him go hard at his mechanical gaming keyboard, beating it and beating it as if his life depends on it. Patches of digitized text form the modality that fits this hurried way of life - and that is generated in the system. The desire to introduce natural language in making the digital world more human (read: to be able to penetrate it deeper), through Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri and Alexa, does not mean that the existential power of spoken and thoughtful written language is retained. In fact, the sound, the meter, and the melody of the language are simulated to immediately be rendered useful in a world of zeros and ones. The analogue pulsating of the music is translated and transformed into connected, utterly effective and exhaustively consumed stream of digital tones. A series of instructions that puts processes in operation and consolidates them - and where there is no room for relaxation, for a break - and for disinterested reflection. And in which a call not being answered or the addressee being in conversation will not be settled for. Being conversational is old-fashioned, is an analogous evil that we have made harmless with the right algorithms and apps. I am still striking a dark tone. It is best, therefore, to conclude this brief consideration with the following quote: "Dad, I hear beep-beep-beep - what should I do now?"

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