Vibrant Digital Matter

Vibrant Digital Matter

Vannevar Bush compels scientists to focus their efforts on making their collective breadth of knowledge more accessible. He discusses the various ways that science has made recording and storing easier, such as through advanced photography and compression technologies. However, Bush stresses that information is only as useful as it is accessible.  In his words, “A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted” (Bush 2). 

How do Bush’s visions of technology change once we view them in terms of Jane Bennett’s concept of vibrant matter? Bennett attempts to breathe life into material objects, arguing that they have power to make a difference and produce effects (vii). How does Bush’s walnut-sized camera and interactive desk alter when you consider them—not only as technologies—but also as actants? (Bush 3,7, Bennett vii). Bennett describes Bruno Latour’s term as “that which has efficacy, can do things, has sufficient coherence to make a difference, produce effects, alter the course of events” (vii). What difference would these technologies make? What effects would they produce? How would they alter the course of events?

It’s obvious that Bush’s visions have become reality. In fact reality has possibly exceeded his imaginations. His interactive desk has manifested as the personal computer that is entirely portable. It’s even common for two cameras much smaller than a walnut to be embedded in all of our technologies. Google Glass even more literally embodies his idea of a camera that would sit atop glasses and be controlled by a cord down your sleeve. Only now the cord is entirely unnecessary. Uninterrupted, intuitive human speech and motion controls the majority of our machines.

To return to Bennett and Latour, what effects and differences do these vibrant technologies have? As technology continues to advance it becomes easier, not only to store digital matter, but to create it. The technologies themselves are vibrant. Their portability and ease of use practically compel humans to create more and more. What are they creating? Vibrant, digital matter.

The matter itself multiplies in volume. Yet does it multiply like Bennett’s image of a landfill? Or Bush’s image of a brilliant library?

~ by katdom on September 11, 2013.

6 Responses to “Vibrant Digital Matter”

  1. “Their portability and ease of use practically compel humans to create more and more, What are they creating?” Another interesting question to consider is WHO is creating technology? To what extent does the technological creation benefit the creator’s agenda and to what extent is it for the public good? These are all questions that should be posed when one is engaging with new technology especially since they have become the epicenter of contemporary life.

  2. This post actually asked readers to really consider vibrant digital matter. I was intrigued by the questions at the end of the post and am still trying to decide how I would form an opinion.
    -Ashley Flor

  3. I agree that through modern technology, we have fulfilled Bush’s vision of accessible media and Bennett’s vision of vibrant matter. The complex yet simple systems that exist within modern technology allows users to shape their own experiences of how they access media, like Bush wanted. Also, now that technologies serves such important purposes for humans that humans are becoming more and more inseparable from their technologies, it has proven its vibrancy. -Soyoon Bach

  4. I agree with your point that technological advances have made it easier for people to digital matter. But ultimately, the things most of us create are digital photos and videos, aided by the simplicity our new devices offer.
    I believe there is still room for a different kind of vibrant digital matter, which can be realized once people begin to build platforms of their own through programming.


  5. I agree with you that Bush’s visions have become reality in the technology nowadays. And it is really surprising for me to even think about where the technology will go, when everything is an actant, including all the technological devices on our hands…
    Sabrina Hao

  6. The points made in this post are ones that resonated with me as well. To read these works and then realize that the have become actualized it quite something. To draw a connection to Google Glasses, iPhones, and even hash-tags shows ideas becoming realty, creating, as you say, a volume of matter and possibilities. The questions you pose at the end are also useful in processing the information of the articles in combination with the outcomes seen today. I would answer that the multiplication doesn’t reach “landfill” status. Rather, it recycles ideas that would otherwise be discarded. By creating systems which make it easier to draw connections between separate ideas, we are getting rid of waste, creating something out elements that could not stand on their own.

    Natalia Ramirez

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