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DigiCULT
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21
tive to the fact that, as we move virtually
through the CD-ROM, we generate our
own cognitive trail, which in turn increas-
es our awareness of the things we learn
through how we learn them.
T
hus, learning processes in a contextu-
alised digital environment resemble a
diagram made of different fields of knowl-
edge, at the centre of which lies an ever-
shifting hot spot where author, designer and
user meet. More specifically, the fact that
representations tend to overlap naturally is
reminiscent of a Venn diagram structure, an
apt illustration of the metonymical mecha-
nisms that govern knowledge acquisition.
Hence, multimedia, because of their intrinsic
dynamism in which documents are in turn
central or peripheral, pre-text, text or con-
text, only put into light the pre-existing cog-
nitive shifts in perspective required to learn
and understand things properly. A configura-
tion in which parts convey wholes and then
become parts ad infinitum. Subsequently,
CD-ROMs which gather idiosyncratic
standpoints also bring to light the limitations
of human knowledge, assembled from bits
and pieces, sometimes the only remnants of
the past; if you can't click on everything, it's
perhaps because not everything is available.
Therefore the overt lack of choice prompts
the user's better understanding of data gath-
ering processes, while drawing attention to
their metonymical dimension. Sometimes,
metonymy, instead of enabling the synthesis
of the available data, compensates for what
is missing.
EXPERIENCING DIGITAL AESTHETICS
24
T
o finish with, we may ponder on the
unique aesthetics of digital resources
that act as a complement to paper format
rather than as a replacement. CD-ROMs
often stage reality in an environment that
has very little in common with what it is
meant to represent, what one could refer
to as digital utopia, i.e. a perfect, idealised
virtual world remote from its actual sub-

24 An expression borrowed from the title of the book by Sean
Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics (London: Sage, 1998).