Digital = ‘free’ (to all intents and purposes)

Very perceptive column by Emily Bell.

In the struggle to find new terminology that accurately describes concepts we don’t fully understand, sometimes language fails us. ‘New media’ is one such term that fails to describe seismic structural change, and insultingly foists the moniker of ‘old media’ on to vibrant formats such as broadcast television and newspapers. What we mean when we say ‘new media’ is most often ‘digital’.

This is much more helpful, as ‘digital’ carries with it a whole set of properties that can be readily understood and that go beyond media and into other areas of society. One key, defining principle of things that are ‘digital’ is that they can be very easily copied, compressed and transmitted. In other words, ‘digital’ and ‘free’; (in every sense, not just the monetary sense) go together like Morecambe and Wise, fish and chips, or banks and bailout.

This is something that the media, their ruling institutions, governments and regulators are all currently coming to terms with: once something is digitised, the ability over time to control it, charge for it, regulate it or contain it exponentially decreases…