Blog Post

Digital Metabolism

I am a media-lit scholar at Duke University investigating technohuman(ist) cultures, network ecologies, augmented realities, info architectures, the 'nature' of the digital, and digital humanities scholarship. This is my third Hastac Scholar Introduction and looking back at the previous two, it is exciting for me to track the evolution of my teaching and my research.

My basic specs are the same: 

<I blog at Textured_Literature, post research and teaching notes - as well as syllabi and pedagogical statements and my research, publication, and teaching activities - at and here too on my blog, and I tweet @stargould>

But my dissertation project has grown:  It has shaped itself into a living (and 3D printed!) discursive creature.

My dissertation is an ethology of sorts unpacking the observable nature of the digital. I am positing a digital metabology as a framework to physically manifest the beginnings, middles (qua media...), and ends of our networked digital technologies. My argument is that networked digital systems, such as the Internet - and its internet-of-things constituent parts - are implicated in the metabolisms of the anthroposphere, the nonhuman biosphere, and the geosphere. I argue the Internet has a digitally-instantiated metabolism and that this metabolism interacts with the Earth's other various metabolic ecologies to different (and sometimes detrimental) co-constitutive ends. When we focus on the material and relational qualtities of the Internet, we find, for example, that the data-based evanescent Cloud is very heavy, that so-called wirelessness requires miles and miles of wires, and that immaterial data are inscribed onto physical media stored in servers housed in energy-hungry data centers. We also begin to truly consider the measurable, tangible materialities of seemingly ubiquitous, invisible digital technologies - from coltan mining to undersea cables to engineering labor maintenance to mediated human (user) interaction to society's dependence on digital infrastructures to cultural digitazation to toxic e-waste detritus - networked digital systems (or better, the Internet-of-things) are enacting visible, physical affects (and damage) across the contemporary landscape. Digital metabolism helps us critically rethink how the digital is at work in our social and physical spheres. And this, I contend, is crucial.

And my teaching has progressed: I am now teaching the second iteration of my Duke literary digital humanities course Augmenting Realities. This year, we are a smaller group but we've already done bigger work; our critical thinking and critical making activities have expanded. One can compare the two iterations Augmenting Realities 2013 vs Augmenting Realites 2.0 2014 to see how a new year brings new challenges and excitements.

Thanks to to all of the new and returning HASTAC Scholar mentors, hellos to my fellow returning scholars and welcome to the new recruits.

I am excited to see what we'll build together this year.

Amanda Starling Gould



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