What is digital?
Everyone seems to banging on about “digital” in the advertising, marketing and PR industries. If they’re not banging on about digital it’s “mobile” or “social” or a nonsensical point release of something that already exists:
- Enterprise 2.0
- Government 3.0
- World’s Oldest Profession 5.0
Organisations with little digital experience ask me what the role of digital is. That’s the wrong question. The question should be “how should our organisation operate in the 21st Century”. In the 21st Century digital technologies are an ordinary, everyday part of people’s lives. In this context it’s important to understand what digital is.
At its most simple, digital is connection, or, more properly, a network of connections. When the web was created this was the connection (by hyperlink) between one “page” of information and another. Digital is also a contemporary means of connection between one person and an organisation (for example, my email address in a company’s database). Digital, through social technologies, is also a set of connections between one person and their social graph (we might call these relationships). Location-based technologies and the Internet of Things connect physical locations and objects to information.
Digital is content. Lots of it, from casual games, to data sources, to utilities and services, audio, video, conversations… This content travels over, or is networked by, the connections above.
Most (if not all) world currencies are virtual currencies. The physical manifestation of currency is a “promise to pay” rather than actual payment. All commercial transactions are processed through digital channels.
When you have transactions, content and conversation passing through the network of connections at the volume and speed we see today, what we’re really talking about is culture. Digital is not a line in the media budget. It’s not a “microsite“. It’s not an iPhone app. It’s not a channel. Digital is culture.
If you’re in any doubt about that, hit play on the video below.