Digital World Stuff: Thinking Aloud over Time


I’ve just found this and thought I’d share it with anyone who might be interested, it is an extract from an essay I wrote many years ago – it’s a bit of a philosophical ramble but there’s some statements in it which I can’t help but relate to my current frustrations with the UK Digital Economy Bill

[…] I have come to realize that for me, there is more to life than sitting in front of a computer creating stuff that only exists in a virtual sense. I do not want to create stuff that doesn’t have physical shape or exist beyond the structured world of code and convention.

This trail of thought has led me to question the values I apply to the “Digital-World”, to my degree and to my life as a whole; I have begun to question the values I apply to the world around me and my understanding of the conventions that give value to my life, the decisions I make and the things I spend my time doing.

I began to read books on Philosophy and Sociology; combined with my dissertation studies of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability I have become interested in the areas of Materialism, Conventionalism and Consumerism. This led me to question the very definitions of value, form and existence. I drew inspiration from contemporary artists whose works were based around the same themes and began to investigate how value is determined, through its relationships with form, function, essentialness and the hierarchy of needs.

Upon trying to gain a philosophical understanding of Value I found the work of Alan Sidelle, within Sidelle’s writings on Conventionalism he states that all that there is in the world, independently of us, is “Stuff” (or as a commentary on Sidelle’s work calls it, “World-Stuff”).

The way we understand the world around us is based upon what we have been told or experienced – Consumerism, Technology, Advertising, Mass Culture and Brand Ideology give meaning, understanding, essentialness and value to our lives and the world around us – without these manufactured conventions of our consumerist society much of the world around us would have no meaning – it would have no linguistic construction, no understanding, no value – the existence of “World-Stuff” is relative to the manufactured conventions of our consumerist society.

So it is in a sense true that we (by our conventions) construct and shape the existence of the world’s objects. This is of course “construction” in a transposed sense. It does not require the use of hammers and saws, and we do not do it in the sweat of our brows. We do it merely by thinking and talking as we do. [2]

I began to draw comparisons between the “Digital-World” and the “Real-World”. I began to question the existence of “Digital-World-Stuff”; in order for something to exist, convention tells us it needs physical form, value and understanding, yet philosophy tells us we construct the existence of world-objects merely by thinking and talking as we do, understanding and linguistic construction determine value, Logic and Math tell us that if something has value it must exist. I believe this to be an interesting line of inquiry, especially when looking at “Digital-World-Stuff”, surely the existence of “Digital-World-Stuff” is relative to the manufactured conventions of our consumerist society, therefore “Digital-World-Stuff” must exist, but in what form?

I read a book entitled “One-Dimensional Man” written by Herbert Marcuse – within his text Marcuse refers to technology and consumerism as one-dimensional, helping to create a one-dimensional society.

“Marcuse was one of the first critical theorists to analyze the consumer society through analyzing how consumerism, advertising, mass culture and ideology integrate individuals into and stabilize the system. He suggests that the emergence of computerization, the proliferation of media and information, and the development of new conventions allow social control; bringing about the surrender of individual thought, hope, and fear to the decisions of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment… [Society’s] sweeping rationality, which propels efficiency and growth is itself irrational. He also critically analyzes new forms of technology and technological rational which are producing a qualitatively different social structure, a totally administered society”. [3] […]

Here’s the project work – make sure you zoom in and out!

Today this video has greater meaning to me:

Bibliography / References:
[1]  Crawford, E. Real Natures & Familiar Objects (Conventionalism) pg. 10
[2 & 3]  pg. 11
Mit Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004.