Digitality and its consequences

with Robin Boast




Robin Boast is the Professor of Information Science and Culture at the Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Previously, he was the Deputy Director and Curator for World Archaeology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He has published widely in the field of information and the culture of the digital.

In particular, relevant to this podcast, he is the author of "The Machine in the Ghost: Digitality and its Consequences" (Reaktion Books, 2017). Everything has its consequences, including digitality. But what are they? Are they positive or negative? And what is digitality in the first place? I asked Robin during one of the best conversations I've had making this podcast and also outside the podcast: I feel lucky that my path crossed that of this fine scholar and delightful man. And I have to thank Dr. Frederick Baker for this, a guest on this podcast (episode #12)! I hope you enjoy this episode!

We live in a digital age, within a digital economy, continuously engaged with digital media. Digital encoding lies at the heart of our contemporary mobile-obsessed, information-heavy, media-saturated world, but it is usually regarded – if it is thought of at all – as something inaccessible, virtual or ephemeral, hidden deep within the workings of our computers, tablets and smartphones. It is surprising that, despite the profusion of books on the history of computers and computing, little has been written about what makes them possible.
Robin's book "The Machine in the Ghost: Digitality and its Consequences" navigates the history of digitality, from the earliest use of digital encoding in a French telegraph invented in 1874, to the first electronic computers; the earliest uses within graphics and infor­mation systems in the 1950s; our interactions with computers through punch cards and program­ming languages; and the rise of digital media in the 1970s. [Paragraph adapted from: http://www.reaktionbooks.co.uk/display.asp?ISB=9781780237398]