Liberating ‘digital’ from ‘technology’

found this quote from Craig Elder, a former senior Conservative comms strategist, fascinating as an account of how ‘the internet’ has ceased to be a siloed technological function and instead become something integrated into the existing communications functions of the party. It’s from Andrew Pickering’s The Hybrid Media System pg 225:

Basically the internet used to be this thing, it was over there, it was in a cupboard, it was the guys who fixed your mouse who were the same guys who updated the stuff on the website. The guys in the press office would churn out a press release, it would be slapped up on the website, it would have a little picture put next to it, and that was the way you ran a website. What our team, which was brought in very early in David Cameron’s leadership, was in essence brought in to do was really to wrestle that responsibility away from an IT department, which has a very particular function, and move that across to a more communications-focused team. Essentially we are a marketing team, an advertising team, a communications-focused team. We have technical skills within our team but it’s not our predominant reason for being. … That’s the overwhelming change within the organization (Interview 9, May 2010).

There is an interesting parallel to be drawn with universities where digital functions are centralised. One of the many things which fascinates me about the University of Cambridge is the radical decentralisation of the place. It doesn’t always work very well for my department to have its own IT services department, not least of all because it spends so much energy connecting local systems to college and university systems. But I’m convinced that centralisation remains regressive when it comes to embedding digital technology within universities.