Marianne van den Boomen on Wed, 28 Jan 2009 23:28:15 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Digital Humanities Manifesto

Thanks Florian, for your precise criticism of this indeed rather sloppy 

Regarding your definition of what is 'digital' as opposed to analog, I 
have the impression that there are two definitions of 'the digital' 
circulating: one equals digital to 'build up by discrete entities' - 
then indeed also celluloid film frames are digital, just as numbers, 
typewriting, printed letters and even speech (as set of phonemes). The 
other definition is to conceive the digital stricty as computable 
numbers (after all, digits means 'numbers', besides 'fingers'). And 
computable here means 'computable only by a computer', that is a 
hardware machine running software by which these numbers can be 
processed, modified, calculated, translated etc.
I prefer the last definition, it enables us to talk about celluloid film 
frames and printed letters as non-digital as long they are not 
translated into computable and computed numbers which make sense in a 
specific program running. Not any number my kid brings home from school 
is digital, and not any discrete entity is digital. The documents coming 
from my printer are analog representations of digital material.
I would even claim that such a definition of the digital would have the 
same political significance as you are aiming at. It foregrounds the 
concrete materiality of the digital, and prevents the kind of digital 
mysticism ('digital equals immaterial, disembodied, metaphysical, 
virtual etc') still present in new media studies. Such a definition 
would  also foreclose the easy dichotomy of the digital vs the analog as 
immaterial vs material - both types of information are profoundly 
material inscriptions (Though of course the materiality of computable 
numbers differs from the materiality of iron, energy, or human bodies, 
but no more or no less than that iron differs from the human body.)

Why do you think it is fruitfull to define digital as any discrete 
entity? I agree that anything build up by discrete entities can be 
translated into digital matarial by assigning numbers to to these 
entities, but countable in itself does not make something computable (by 


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