The Post-digital Renaissance | March 24, 2013

We first saw it with food. People getting back to nature and growing their own veggies, or hitting the kitchen to bake their own sour dough. We then saw it with the the rise of the craft movement, inspiring a generation of knitters, potters and jewellery makers take back the skills their great grandparents once owned but were lost in the rush to convenience.

Next up were the artisanal bakers, cup-cake makers and independent coffee shops. Baking their own breads, frosting their own buns and roasting their own blends, all delivered on a fixed gear bike or (for added kudos) a Penny Farthing.

This trend was also seen in the world of fashion, with hipsters in New York, London and San Francisco donning tweed jackets and growing improbable facial hair as part of a new found chap manifesto. Second hand clothes were no longer the preserve of students and the term “vintage” came to mean something with history and craftsmanship.

At the same time, burlesque shows, tea dances and secret speakeasy’s have been on the rise, encouraging people to partake in the illicite joys of days gone by. I wonder when opium dens will come back in vogue.

The post digital age has seen a mass of disaffected hipsters, born into a world of Orwellian connectivity, embrace a simpler age when craft was king. They are throwing off the shackles of mass produced, industrialised garbage, keen to the lies of the marketing executives. Neighbourhoods like Brick Lane, Williamsburg and The Mission are seeing a kind of reverse gentrification, with local bakers, milliners and hardware stores taking over from big chains.

Fuelled by Etsy and Kickstarter, the new digital fronteer is no longer virtual. Instead we’re seeing a new generation of tinkers who want to see the network manifest in physical products. So the big tech conferences are awash with boxes the print, light-up or chime to the flow of the network.

It’s a curious trend and not the first time society has looked to the past for clues about the good life, or reapplied old wisdom through a new societal lens. So is this renewed interest in craftsmanship, tinkering and personal scientific discovery some kind of post-digital renaissance or are we simply going through the typical soul searching that occurs once a century once the initial party has finally wound down?

More importantly does it really matter? I think things are about to get very interesting (commercial space flight, personal drones, 3d printers in every home) and I’m really looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

Posted at March 24, 2013 12:50 PM


Fred Rocha said on March 27, 2013 12:25 PM

We’ve scented this need to stress the analogue some years ago, inspired also by the writings of Nicholas Carr.

That’s why we created

By proving people tools to create books with their most intimate (email) messages, we empower them to rescue their own content from the hands of anonymous email providers.

Having your data in a physical format, holding it in your hands, is very cool. Period.

Jess said on March 28, 2013 12:55 AM

Lovely post!

This trend goes even deeper I think and I’m optimistic about it’s roots and outcome. We are in a making revival and with that people are also keen to get tangible with the myriad of technology around them.

It is to be embraced, it doesn’t do any good in the long run for technology to become esoteric. Just as it is a good thing to have some understanding of how your food ends up on your plate so it helps to know how your blog appears magically on someone else’s computer.

And as a important side effect, through trying to craft one can also realise the value and skill that experienced professionals have. Both in the more tangible making or growing of a physical thing and in the crafting of a piece of code or design.