On The Existence of Digital Objects

Hui, Yuk. 2011. On The Existence of Digital Objects. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is a philosophical investigation of such digital objects as images, videos
and facebook objects which pervade our everyday life online and constitute a digital
milieu with which we live. Despite their popularity, philosophical reflection about
them has largely been absent. Digital objects, in their simplest form, are data, which
are further formalized through logical metadata schemes or ontologies. The
formalized objects present themselves as data which are programmable objects which
we create, drag, delete, as well as networks which are created through logical
inferences. The thesis will argue that investigation of natural objects by traditional
metaphysics fails to understand digital objects. It proposes to develop a new method
based on the conceptualisation of technical objects in Martin Heidegger and Gilbert
Simondon’s works. Heidegger is important because he understands technical objects
by situating them within their world, while Simondon treats them as an evolution
towards perfection. The thesis proposes synthesizing the ideas of these two thinkers
through the concept of relations by studying the genesis of Markup languages from
GML to the semantic web and the history of artificial intelligence, especially of what
Hubert Dreyfus calls Heideggerian AI. It develops a theory of relations from Hume
(discursive relations) and Heidegger (existential relations) to analyse digital objects
instead of substance and hylomorphism. The analysis of relations helps us understand
the digital milieu as a technical system, which exhibits a dynamic between these two
relations and construct a new conception of temporality. The thesis further proposes
to investigate experiences in the technical system through the analysis of both
cognitive (Husserl) and existential (Heidegger) meaning by contrasting them with
computational logic, algorithms and the extended mind hypothesis. In general, the
thesis demonstrates a new approach and a philosophical understanding of
computational objects, which is called machine phenomenology.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 14:16

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:14



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