Digital Materiality

Digital Materiality
James Purdon

As twenty-first century technology theory has begun to shift its emphasis from mechanical reproduction to digital remediation, it has at times risked buying into the most febrile forms of futurology, conjuring utopian visions of societies freed from the grind of materiality. Among the most potent fantasies of digitization can be counted the ‘paperless office’, ‘cloud computing’, and ‘wireless networks’: manifestations of a transcendental impulse by virtue of which all that was solid is taken to have melted into information. By contrast, literary and screen cultures of the digital seem to have become increasingly fascinated by the matter of media, whether that matter manifests itself as the ‘dead’ or obsolete media objects which open up avenues of archaeological enquiry, as the digital glitches and artefacts created as byproducts of data-processing devices, as the ‘New Aesthetic’ of virtual objects leaking into physical space, or as the infrastructural nodes and networks which facilitate the production, transmission and consumption of new media. This strand seeks to produce a space for enquiry into such digital matter.

Work in progress
L-T-M members have recently published work on the relationship between narrative and obsolescent technology, and on electricity pylons in 1930s landscape painting. Current projects include an investigation of media and memory in Cold War fiction and film, and an exploration of the possible futures of the electronic book.