I don’t think we’re amphibians…

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Liberty Alleston considers Floridi’s paper A Proxy Culture (2015), and discusses whether we are amphibians, or something altogether different: Tiktaaliks.

Artistic interpretation of Tiktaalik; a prehistoric marine creature emerging onto a shore

Artistic interpretation of Tiktaalik (https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=106807&org=NSF)

In Floridi’s A Proxy Culture (2015), he ends his paper with “we are the amphibian generation that is moving out of the analogue world to live in a digital environment.” But I propose that Floridi potentially got his animal analogy wrong because we are not amphibians. Amphibians require water or a moist environment to survive and reproduce. From what I gather in his paper, and this statement specifically, the analogue world is comparable to water and the digital environment is comparable to land. Therefore, his animal analogy does not fall in conjunction with what he is trying to communicate as amphibians need both. For us to be moving out of the analogue world (water) we must venture fully and immerse ourselves deeply into the digital environment (land), which is something that is already happening.

Thus, I would like to suggest, that we are not amphibians but, in fact, Tiktaalik, a Late Devonian vertebrate. Tiktaalik, whilst still a fish, possessed tetrapod-like features that allowed it to venture onto land, such as wrist bones in the fins and limbs that allowed for it to hold itself up. The combination of these features is theorized* to be the reason why Tiktaalik was an early, and successful, evolutionary transition between water and land.

True to the ancestral Tiktaalik, we are in the midst of our own evolutionary transition between the two realms of analogue and digital. Whilst still present, it is uncertain for how much longer the analogue world will be prevalent and useful. Once the generational divide between those who grew up with a computer in their hands and those who didn’t shrinks, the use of the analogue world will shrink with it. The actions that we are taking in our new and persistent digital environment will determine the future of information systems. We are in the very centre of evolution.

To be mentally aware that we are in the middle of an evolutionary transition is incredibly daunting. Evolution takes millions of years for a miniscule change to occur; we are expected to acclimatize to our new environment overnight with the speed that changes are occurring. Everything that has happened before us has led to where we are right now, and now suddenly everything that is happening today is going to form the future. That is a lot of pressure, especially for someone who is an up-and-coming library and information scientist; how am I not supposed to feel like this is all suddenly my responsibility? I am filled with so many questions that I will never have the answers to because I am right in the middle of the transition. How do we know that the actions we are currently taking will create a wonderful and bright digital future and not a dystopian nightmare? Will the evolutionary transition be dominated by the media giants, or will we be able to have our own input for the future? I am so overwhelmed!

The actions that we must take to protect the future of the digital environment and ensure that it is a safe and functioning place have already begun. Whether or not they are the right ones is only something the future knows. For now, I am going to put my faith into Tiktaalik and just hope that we are on the right track.

*Of course, like with any evolutionary theory or hypothesis there is a lot of speculation around the exact timeline, but generally Tiktaalik is accepted as one of the first early transitionary vertebrates.

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This and other articles written by Liberty can be found through her LinkedIn profile.

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