Is it just me?

Has anyone else noticed the trend for people to talk about “Digitalisation” rather than “Digitisation”? Over the past year, student essays, newspaper reports, and various websites have started using “Digitalisation” to mean the process of creating digital representation of analogue objects and media. Now, I know language shifts and changes, and to some extent, “Digitalisation” makes kinda sense – you are making something digital, right? And there is the whole digitisation/digitization argument, but lets not get into that. Instead, lets have a look at some definitions:

Digitisation: The process of creating digital files by scanning or otherwise converting analogue materials.The resulting digital copy, or digital surrogate, would then be classed as digital material and then subject to the same broad challenges involved in preserving access to it, as “born digital” materials. (From the Digital Preservation Coalition website).

Digitalisation: The administration of digitalis or one of its active constituents to a patient or an animal so that the required physiological changes occur in the body; also, the state of the body resulting from this. (From the Oxford English Dictionary).

So now you know. Spell carefully, my friends….

ps. Yes I know in the early 1960s digitalisation was also used to mean digitisation. But it settled down pretty quickly into digitisation.

pps. Yes, I know policing the interweb for spelling mistakes is a pointless task. I was only pointing out an observation…

7 thoughts on “Is it just me?

  1. For what the anecdotal evidence is worth: I’ve noticed for years that the “digitali[s|z]ation” variant (and the verb “to digitali[s|z]e”) seem to be preferred for use in English by European colleagues whose native language is something other than English. What the underlying linguistic or historical causes might be … I haven’t a clue.


  2. I reckon there’s a semantic difference here – ‘digitization’ is the common-or-garden concrete process of converting analogue materials into digital ones. ‘Digitalization’ appears to have been adopted for the more abstract process of changing from one paradigm (analogue) to another (digital). So you wouldn’t say “I’m digitalizing something” for the same reasons that you can talk about ‘globalisation’ but noone ‘globalizes’. Or maybe I’m just being a nutter 😉


  3. interesting hypotheses, both. I’ve also noticed it in students from more traditional disciplines (english lit, archives management) who are taking one of my courses as their first real introduction to any computational technology. They assume that digitalize is the verb, for obvious reasons. And yes, it would fit into other patterns of English to use that (although english is nothing if not unpredictable….)


  4. I would like to assist Tom: In German for example, we know the words <>Digitalisierung<> and <>digitalisieren<>. The shortest form is <>digital<>. The English <>digit<> wouldn’t be understood, this time not restituted by its English pendant, as there exists a real translation: <>Ziffer<>. So, being German and trying to translate what you want to say into English without knowing the English word must result in <>digital-i[s|z]e<>.


  5. well, that makes perfect sense. It also makes sense that if people start using it (and writing it) in that way, that others will pick it up (I cant remember the linguistic term for spelling-creep).


  6. yep – me too.I would suggest that this probably comes from an incorrect notion of how (English) words are the process of making an analogue object into something *digital* you stick *ization* onto the end. hence: digitalization (sic).


  7. Intresting I have dyslexic and can’t understand why they make these terms so similar that it is confusing?Why don’t we invent a new word completely different to help us one in ten people that have no time for this boring detail in language.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.