Materiality and Mechanisms
The invention of the computer (Babbage and Lovelace) in the
early nineteenth century and the invention of media (Daguerre)
occurred around the same time. Both technologies were built on
previous models and infrastructures of calculating and storing
information. Even the Universal Turing Machine presented a
model that looked like a film projector.
An essential aspect of DH and media studies is understanding
infrastructures and the underlying material makeup of digital
media. It turns our that the infrastructures are built on
established technologies that adapted for particular purposes,
and that the digital tools we use are mediated by various
layers of abstraction and translation.
lays out four principles for new media.
1. Discrete representation (or
'fractal' structure) of digital on
different scales: data structures remain the same, they have
qualities independent of any programme or presentation
2. Numerical representation of computable
objects: media is formally represented (as numbers) and can
therefore be subject to algorithms (i.e.
computations). Digital code is subjected to computation,
in other words.
3. Automation: based on (2), any media can be
reproduced and modified automatically without human
intervention (templates, gamification, access engines, and so
4. Variability: every kind of media is fluid -- it
is adaptable and always subject to change.
The logic of new media corresponds to a post-industrial logic
of "production on demand" and "just in time" delivery. Minimum
viable product is the primary aim, and then subsequent versions
are released after the data has been improved. Such processes
are possible by virtue of digital computers and networks in