Dourish publishes The Stuff of Bits

May 4, 2017

Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics Paul Dourish has published a new book titled The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information about the digital representations that help shape our computerized existence.

On one end of our digital experience are interactive virtual entities like online stores, e-books and whole virtual worlds. On the other end are the physical infrastructures that support them, such as fiber optic cables and server farms. The Stuff of Bits examines the domain between these virtual and physical entities that make up our computer-generated experiences and focuses on these digital representations encoded into software, loaded into computer memory, shared between networks and stored in our databases.

Dourish presents four case studies in this new work: emulation, the creation of a “virtual” computer inside another; digital spreadsheets and their role in organizational practice; relational databases and the issue of “the databaseable”; and the evolution of digital networking and the representational entailments of network protocols.

Recognizing this domain as materialistic, Dourish also offers readers an entry point to broader concerns of public policy, politics and power in the realm of the digital.

The Stuff of Bits is published by The MIT Press and will be released May 5, 2017. Dourish is also the author of Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction and coauthor of Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing, both also published by The MIT Press.