The digital revolution was a dinner party but its afterglow is not. The once utopian promises of high-definition audiovisuals, real-time electronic communication and infinite storage possibilities are just some of the digital culture perspectives that are now widely disseminated. At the same time as these phenomena are still shrouded in the glossy aesthetics of the digital, their tarnished appeal cannot be denied in a world where ‘big data’ is also the ‘big brother’ of mass surveillance and where the ‘cloud’ is made of the metals and minerals of the ‘earth’ on which data centers are built. Far from immaterial and neutral, our post-digital culture is one where tech is deeply embedded in the geophysical and geopolitical. This is evident at the significant ‘other sites’ of digital culture such as e-waste dumps, mines, mass-digitisation companies and security agencies. transmediale 2014 proposes the post-digital moment of ‘afterglow’ as a diagnosis of the current status of the digital hovering between ‘trash and treasure’. afterglow conjures up the ambivalent state of digital culture, where what seems to remain from the digital revolution is a paradoxical nostalgia for the futuristic high-tech it once promised us but that is now crumbling in our hands. The challenge that this moment poses is how to use that state of post-digital culture between trash and treasure as a still not overdetermined space from which to invent new speculative thought and practice. Are there means of renewal in the excess, overflow and waste products of the digital afterglow?
What does it mean to speak about digital culture today, and what are the implications of the term post-digital? The conference takes afterglow as a metaphor for the present condition of digital culture, examining the geopolitical, infrastructural and bodily consequences of the excessive digitisation that has taken place over the course of the last three decades. These topics have been divided into three streams that each reflect a different aspect of digital culture in the afterglow: An Afterglow of the Mediatic, chaired by Jussi Parikka and Ryan Bishop of the Winchester School of Art, focuses on the materiality of the digital from a geopolitical and geophysical perspective; Hashes to Ashes, chaired by Tatiana Bazzichelli, reflects on the strategic infrastructure of the digital and the backdoors behind the glossy surface of connectivity; Will you be my TRASHURE?, chaired by Francesco Warbear Macarone Palmieri and Katrien Jacobs, speaks about the body of the digital, and its implication on identity, sexuality and pleasure as a way to reflect on politics and culture.