Thinking with digits: Cinema and the digital-analogue opposition

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The word digital is commonly used to refer to a whole suite of new media technologies that are informed by computational principles. It is often pronounced that we live in a digital age and that our social and aesthetic beliefs are underpinned by the concept of digitality. But when a term is used to herald a broad cultural change it loses much of its specificity and critical purpose. The digital becomes a shibboleth of the new and its counterpart, the analogue, a locus for nostalgia and a presumed indexical connection with the real. We are at a point now, in the study of media and cinema, when it is important to rethink both the analogue and the digital if they are to continue to have any critical value. This is not a plea to limit discussion to technological affordances, for the terms precede the many recent technologies to which they are applied. Rather it is a call to reconsider the digital-analogue distinction as a mode of representation and how this might apply to cinema. This is not just a matter of providing a clear definition in the manner favoured by philosophy, because any theoretical repositioning has to bear some relationship to the material, aesthetic and spectatorial aspects of cinema. The representational differences must affect the way we watch films as well as provide a means for understanding distinct filmmaking practices. In short, it is about redeploying the analogue-digital distinction as a mode of thinking in cinema – in terms of both reason and aesthetics – that extends well beyond the application of specific technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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