Yuk Hui – On the Existence of Digital Objects


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-0816698912, English, 336 pages, 2016, USA

The inscrutable nature of “digital objects”, which are essentially data but also industrial products, can lead to considering this term as a sort of oxymoron. On the other end, this definition constructively describes a relationship that inescapably intertwines nonhuman and human entities as we experience them every day. Hui develops in this essay an absorbing philosophical investigation of these objects which goes well beyond the ample definition of digital humanities. Particularly it’s an analysis of ontologies and markup languages’ development, through Heidegger’s and Simondon’s theories of objects. The two philosophers are perfectly combined as their theories are sometimes opposing, but are set in different contexts. So they turn out to be an ideal active background onto which to build a theory about digital objects, considered as the subject matter of philosophy, after the “natural object” and the “technical object”. From there the text opens and departs to a multiplicity of other philosophers and respective theories, including the most recent ones. In this truly interdisciplinary essay, philosophy and computer science are never subjected to each other, but in a constant dialogue, which involves exemplary considerations about the space and the time through which we relate with these objects. Hui unveils the political agenda of “bringing society together” where “techniques can be re-inscribed in culture”, conducted through a clear and documented essay.