The materiality of digital technology

This point made by Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter can’t be stressed enough:

Digital communication is however a supremely material medium involving large amounts of hardware, including computers, cell-phones and tablets, requiring software platforms that structure and help shape in very material ways the communications that can be engaged in, and being reliant on electricity or proxy-forms such as batteries. Also, an array of traces remains and can be made material. Websites stay in existence long after hosting sites may have vanished; email is ‘there’ and can be recovered; and text messages are similarly ‘there’ and available. And for all these, people can and do engage in their own forms of archiving, some of which involve printing out and making as material and ‘words on paper’ as the conventional letter.

In fact I’d supplement this argument with the observation that my neck is hurting because of the slightly odd position I’ve been sitting in while using my laptop for the past hour. Digital technology is ‘supremely material’ and our engagements with it are unavoidably embodied. This should be axiomatic for any attempt to understand socio-technical systems.

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