The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information
by Paul Dourish
MIT Press, May 2017
Virtual entities that populate our digital experience, like e-books, virtual worlds, and online stores, are backed by the large-scale physical infrastructures of server farms, fiber optic cables, power plants, and microwave links. But another domain of material constraints also shapes digital living: the digital representations sketched on whiteboards, encoded into software, stored in databases, loaded into computer memory, and transmitted on networks. These digital representations encode aspects of our everyday world and make them available for digital processing. The limits and capacities of those representations carry significant consequences for digital society.
In The Stuff of Bits, Paul Dourish examines the specific materialities that certain digital objects exhibit. He presents four case studies: emulation, the creation of a “virtual” computer inside another; digital spreadsheets and their role in organizational practice; relational databases and the issue of “the databaseable”; and the evolution of digital networking and the representational entailments of network protocols. These case studies demonstrate how a materialist account can offer an entry point to broader concerns—questions of power, policy, and polity in the realm of the digital.
Paul Dourish is Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics and Associate Dean for Research in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and in Anthropology. His research lies at the intersection of computer science and social science, with a particular interest in ubiquitous and mobile computing and the cultural practices surrounding digital media. He is the author of Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction and coauthor of Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing, both published by the MIT Press.
We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.
It’s that time of year again – Milan’s don’t-miss event for the design community is here. If you’re looking to get inspired at Milan Design Week, then check out our top picks for the latest edition, from Experientia’s designers, strategists and partners. Milan might be best known for its busy streets, traditional cafés and world […]
Following the 2016 Smart Innovation Award at “FIMBACTE Trophées du Cadre de vie”, the CITYOPT project has once again been recognized, this time in the prestigious French design competition: “Observeur du Design 2017”, in the Service Design category. In June 2016, CITYOPT won the first stage of the Observeur du Design. Now the project has […]
Last month Putting People First announced the upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities in Nice France. Meanwhile we are pleased to announce the full event agenda (see below). This event will feature professionals from leading research institutes and industry gathering to present key initiatives which combine Energy Efficiency and Service Design […]
Invitation to the International Conference on Design & Sustainable Innovation for SmartCities Nice (France) 8 December 2016 On the 8th December 2016, the CITYOPT project will host an international conference on Design and sustainable innovation for SmartCities, at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, France. An open invitation to attend is offered to people and organisations who […]
The 100&Change is an international competition and a landmark opportunity for thinkers and designers to tackle critical challenges affecting the world. Michele Visciòla will be one of the panel of expert judges who will select which project is worthy of the $100 million grant. 100&Change is the MacArthur Foundation competition – launched this year for […]
The September issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) contains a lengthy essay, entitled Building an Insights Engine, on how Unilever has created the organizational capabilities to “transform data into insights about consumers’ motivations and to turn those insights into strategy.” The article was written by Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed of a […]