ICT and IDM

Something that I’ve been mulling over in the back of my mind recently is the difference between the phrases “Information and Communication Technologies” and “Interactive and Digital Media”. They’re often used in by people who are working in similar areas (in the cases I see, trying to change the way people learn) and often to refer to similar species of technology: the fact they’re most commonly used in abbreviated form and rarely articulated helps people to use them to refer to a domain that I suspect is best described as “all that techy stuff, you know, games and things made by electronics companies, and phones, they’re amazing now, and there’s all this new kind of internet around as well, all that”.

But there’s a fundamental difference. “ICT” is concerned with the exchange of information, with communication, with activity that at root is something to with people and what makes them human. “IDM” describes the way information might be presented to someone. It describes the qualities of the thing being presented, not the reason for presenting it: the recipient or the producer of the information don’t seem to be part of what’s being described. I suppose some might claim that for something to be “interactive” there must be a person around to interact with it, and fair enough, but the word “interactive” describes potential while “communication” describes action: what bothers me about “IDM” is the passive nature of the description, that there doesn’t necessarily have to be a person involved with the media. “IDM” talks about the thing as an end in itself.

I suppose another aspect of this is the assumptions about the political and social structures behind using either phrase: at minimum, there seem to be assumptions about the kind of manufacturing capacity available in a particular society being made by people using either one. But it seems to me that “ICT” could describes bonfire beacons as well as VoIP, flag signalling between ships as well as Morse Code, knotted Aztec string and smoke signals and talking drums as well as anything that needs a cable to work. “IDM” seems to bring with it an idea that printed circuit boards and display monitors are easy to come by and produce.

This train of thought’s obviously come from Singapore Central, a station where “IDM” is used a lot and “ICT” seems very rare. Although I think it’s a useful thing, to remind yourself about the root of bits of jargon you use a lot, making this distinction between the phrases might be revealing some prejudice about an environment I’ve only just arrived in: I suppose if anyone disagrees, they can send me a picture of them sticking two fingers up at me, an interaction which is definitely digital.

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