Is the digital material? In last semesters senior colloquium on material culture, our class asked this numerous times. The traditional examples of material culture were always something that could be physically held. For example, a book is a part of material culture. But what about an eBook? You can’t hold the book, but you can hold an iPad, Kindle, or computer. Is the eBook only material if you print it out?
The existence of this new digital culture necessitates deciding where the line exists between digital and material culture, if a line even exists.
The digital is grounded in the material: computers, phones, tablets, servers, Wi-Fi ports, the list goes on. Yet, we continually refer to digital culture as something immaterial and intangible. If you mention the “cloud” to many people, odds are they will think of amorphous data stored floating around in the sky. The language we use to describe technology separate it even more from the material world.
To return to understanding the materiality of digital culture, here is a video of how an iPhone is built: