I have come to understand “digital alchemy” to be the transformative process that occurs when words, ideas, images, sounds, etc. are transmitted (and received) across a digital network. I say received, however, with some reservation. I wonder, does the message have to be received in order to be transformed, or is the creator’s act of creation enough to warrant it as being digitally-alchemic? (Is art “art” if no one ever sees it?) I am tempted to argue that, because the idea of a network is woven into my working definition, a message must be not only received but transformed yet again by the receiver in some way. Then again, I’m not so sure. When, exactly, does the transformation take place. I may be getting ahead of myself…..let me go back.
When thinking about digital alchemy (I hate to do this but…), I must insert the buzz word “spectrum” into my discussion. I do believe that there is a broad range and/or varying levels of what one might deem to be digital alchemy. I think most of we do on the web can be considered digital alchemy. Here’s why.
On the most basic level, the act of getting any message across to another person is a form of mystical mutation in itself. As humans, we are limited by the constraints of language (among many other roadblocks) in our ability to convey even the simplest of messages to another. There are thoughts and feelings inside us which have no verbal counterpart. We strive to be understood by others and, yet, we may never know for sure whether or not they fully comprehend. The intended message may then be re-transmitted to others and, like in the classic game of telephone, it may (again) undergo a series of (alchemical?) changes. Similarly, there are things that our mind cannot begin to comprehend. Sometimes you can just “feel” something being transmitted from another person. The unfathomable….that’s magical!
Digital Alchemy: The simple fact that digital networks even exist is mind-blowing! So, an Instagram photo posted by a user is, indeed, digital alchemy. Think about what happens. Say, for example, a person is sitting home alone. They snap a selfie and post to Instagram. They are, essentially, telling a story to the world. Whatever it may be, there is some intention behind the act. Then, others react and/or comment on this “story.” Suddenly, the person sitting at home alone is connected. In turn, others who see these connections may choose to join or ignore, each choice adding to the transformation.
We’re all telling stories on the web with everything we do, or choose not to do. Choosing not to “like” or comment on someone’s “story” is making a statement to that person and to others.
So, yes, the digitally networked spaces we inhabit have made it possible for nearly everything online practice to communicate our stories to (and with) the world.
My thoughts about how “true,” purposeful digital storytelling relates to digital alchemy are too lengthy to post here and now.
One last thought- I find it interesting to think about how I cannot seem to send a text without an emoji or an acronym. This particular digital platform has truly changed the way we communicate. It’s weird to say but I don’t know how I would text without them, yet there’s no way to use them in a face-to-face verbal conversation (Unless I give someone a “thumbs up”). My hubby’s still getting the hang of it….I texted him I was sick the other day and he sent me this!!!!