The first and foremost feature we can notice is that it is still a form of Capitalism, which in itself requires some clarifications:
- As in any Capitalism deserving of the name, the main goal socially transmitted to any and all of its individual members is the accumulation of capital. ¿What is capital? any material good that can be appropriated, defended against others (protected by private property rights) and transmitted in a market in exchange for other goods, or for the promise of other goods (credit), and that is acquired and/ or kept with the explicit purpose of increasing itself
- Thus capital requires both clear and stable private property laws (a minimal uncertainty about the future possession of any good immediately marks it as unfit for being kept for the purpose of increasing its owner's capital) and a market economy where goods can be exchanged at a profit
- Money (a social technology for keeping track of who owes what to whom) is a form of capital, not to be confused with the commodities or services that can be acquired with it (a serious error that invalidates most of Marxist thought from the beginning)
- By the same token, commodities are capital only insofar as they are kept for the purpose of being exchanged for other commodities in the pursuit of gains. The house you live in, the clothes you wear and the expensive wine you keep in your cellar (as long as you intend to drink it some day) are not capital, but what you eventually use capital for (or rather, what you spend money on, as the money you spend is not strictly capital, either... in Marxist terms, you extract use-value from a commodity by extracting it from the sphere of circulation, thus destroying it), although they can become capital (if you decide to use them for the purpose of obtaining additional capital, in whatever form, from their sale)
- Labour-power is neither capital nor a commodity (as it is not a material good), nor the only source of value in commodities (another Marxian error, and the origin of most of what went wrong with his thought afterwards), although it IS a source of value, and a very complex one to quantify and to homogenize at that. Trying to measure units of labour power (labour time) is both futile and in the end circular (very clear in the first volume of "Capital": the value of a labour day is calculated adding the amount of goods needed to sustain the labourer for the day, but the values of those goods have first to be expressed by the amount of "social time" needed to produce them, "social time" being an unmeasurable construct trying to reflect not only the times devoted to their production of differently skilled workers, but also the "accumulated labor" used to build the means of production themselves -machinery, engineering- and achieve the land productivity required by the socioeconomic unit in which the measurement takes place)
So even after defining capitalism in a precise enough way (so it can be clearly differentiated from aevery other form of organization tried on Earth in the last 30,000 years) we can look at how it has evolved, and today's variation is different in turn from all its previous incarnations. ¿What does it mean that the current capitalism is "digital"?
- First, a certain level of technological development is required, that allows at least for a) massive customized production of consumer goods, with minimal human involvement (automation); b) cheap (meaning, independently of price level, available to everybody and practically ubiquitous) communications and c) reliable (and again, easily available everywhere for everybody) energy production
- That level of technology enables an increase in the complexity of multinational corporations, an increase in commercial and technological flows between country and an increase in awareness of how "the other half" lives (AKA globalization, but also a weakening of traditional culturally bounded narratives and thus postmodernism)
- But that same level of technology allows in turn for the recording, storage and dissemination of "information", initially a digital representation of the "material" world (be it music, still images, animated inmages -movies-, books, and what have you). Although society still tries to treat information as a commodity (subject to a price, exchangeable in a market), some of its features make this treatment problematic: it can be copied, transported and reproduced at virtually no cost, and such copying and transporting and reproducing do not alter its original form, and can be done without the original owner noticing...