What is a Digital Object?

What is a Digital Object?

  1. Yuk Hui*

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2012.01761.x


Special Issue: Philoweb: Toward a Philosophy of the Web: Guest Editors: Harry Halpin and Alexandre Monnin

Volume 43, Issue 4, pages 380–395, July 2012


  • digital objects;
  • phenomenology;
  • metadata;
  • Stiegler;
  • Simondon


We find ourselves in a media-intensive milieu comprising networks, images, sounds, and text, which we generalize as data and metadata. How can we understand this digital milieu and make sense of these data, not only focusing on their functionalities but also reflecting on our everyday life and existence? How do these material constructions demand a new philosophical understanding? Instead of following the reductionist approaches, which understand the digital milieu as abstract entities such as information and data, this article proposes to approach it from an embodied perspective: objects. The article contrasts digital objects with natural objects (e.g., apples on the table) and technical objects (e.g., hammers) in phenomenological investigations, and proposes to approach digital objects from the concept of “relations,” on the one hand the material relations that are concretized in the development of mark-up languages, such as SGML, HTML, and XML, and on the other hand, Web ontologies, the temporal relations that are produced and conditioned by the artificial memories of data.

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