Tag Archives: digital objects

Thoughts on Digital Objects

In ‘A Theory of Digital Objects’ (Kallinikos et al), the authors define a number of key attributes of digital objects; that they are “editable, interactive, open and distributed”. In contrast to non-digital artefacts, digital objects can be manipulated endlessly, by up-dating or deleting elements or functions and can be explored interactively in a contingent fashion. Digital objects are also able to be modified or reprogrammed using other digital objects in such a way as to completely alter appearance or functionality and as they are not contained in a single space or source on the internet, they are effectively borderless.

This openness and distribution of digital objects allows for a greater interoperability between the objects themselves and their underlying codes and systems in a way that is not possible with their physical counterparts and suggests that they are not ‘objects’ at all but rather a fluid system of operations and media. All digital objects are mediated, that is, they are inextricably linked to the technology that enables their existence, which in turn is dependent on other, earlier technologies.  According to Bolter and Grusin in their book ‘Remediation’, “What is a medium? We offer this simple definition: a medium is that which remediates. It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real. A medium in our culture can never operate in isolation, because it must enter into relationships of respect and rivalry with other media.” Examples of remediation are everywhere; books have been refashioned as e-readers, footnoting and indexing as hypertext, journals as blogs and vlogs, paintings and analogue photography as digital photography, stage productions as film or television. Even virtual reality or computer simulations, which may not have a physical counterpart, depend on the development of previous media.

“Analogue media exist as fixed physical objects in the world, their production being dependent upon transcriptions from one physical state to another. Digital media may exist as analogue hard copy, but when the content of an image or text is in digital form it is available as a mutable string of binary numbers stored in a computer’s memory” (‘New Media, A Critical Introduction’ Lister et al).  While it may seem that there must have been an “absolute break” between the analogue and digital, in this book the authors argue that many current digital media are refashioned and expanded versions of the older analogue media. Some new media attempt to represent the real world experience (much as a trompe l’oeil painting seeks to fool the eye into believing a scene is ‘real’) in a transparent fashion, so that the user interacts with the content and the medium itself is all but invisible. The term ‘immediacy’ was coined by Bolter and Grusin to define this concept. ‘Hypermediacy’ is the paradoxical counterpart of immediacy in that the media is ultra-visible but adds to the richness and believability of the experience.

‘A Theory of Digital Objects’, Jannis Kallinikos, Alexi Aaltonen, Atilla Marton, First Monday, 2010

‘Remediation: Understanding New Media’, J. David Bolter,  Richard Grusin, MIT Press, 1999

‘New Media: A Critical Introduction’, Martin  Lister, John Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, Kieran Kelly, Routledge, 2003

Digital Objects Collaborative Group

A Reflection on the Collaborative Process and Reasoning Behind the Group Project: Digital Objects

The digital object can be viewed above


The purpose of this reflection is to define the thought processes behind the decisions that were made regarding the creation of the digital object, a reflection on the process itself as well as justification for the artefact that was created.


The initial brainstorming session was stimulating and many ideas were discussed including digitisation of physical artefacts versus ‘born digital’ artefacts, advances in technology such as 3D scanning, virtual reality, social media platforms and others. One idea that was closely considered was the democratisation of works of art and how, with today’s technology, most anyone can view and experience great artworks that were previously siloed or inaccessible to all but the privileged few.This led to a discussion about ownership, especially in regard to art that has been manipulated or reproduced in different formats, such as Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe prints, themselves modelled on a 1953 film still, and how tools and applications  such as Photoshop and Instagram can result in innovative and disparate reproductions.


The theme of remediation was suggested by Dr. Orla Murphy and was later settled on as the basis for the series of digital photographs and flash movie created by the group. This theory focuses on the idea that digital technology can not only be used to digitise physical objects but can also be used to endlessly refashion other digital objects through different media and these representations depend on the technology that came before, for example, digital film processes remediated analogue film, which in turn remediated stage production. The decision was later made to photograph artwork on the UCC campus, with each group member remediating the image and combining the results into a short clip. Personally, my contributions were to create the Google doc, taking the pictures along with another member, deciding on a final image to remediate and contributing those pictures to the member who created the final clip. I also searched for the artist who created the original sculpture and was responsible for a lot of the communication within the group.


The initial group meeting was fruitful but on reflection, the importance of a defined leadership role was overlooked as well as having a clear understanding of what the project actually entailed. Subsequent face-to-face meetings of all group members proved difficult logistically and it took time for a consensus to be reached in regards to the digital artefact. There was some confusion as to what exactly the written submission element of the project should entail with the whole group initially believing it was an academic discourse on the nature of digital objects. A shared Google doc was created and a fair amount of academic research was written about the theory of digital objects, remediation and copyright before it became clear that the focus should shift to the object itself and the process behind its creation and working in a group. This shift was instigated by online conversations with other groups and redefined the direction of this writing and that of most of the other group members. This naturally created stress and frustration but, as the artefact itself did not need to be altered, it was not an insurmountable problem.

However, the role of clear communication can not be underestimated and has proven to be a key element in this group collaborative effort. The shared goal should be defined early on in the process and clear objectives set in place, along with a timeline for achieving those objectives. Systematic review of the aims and objectives, continuous feedback and reflection and responsiveness are vital for coherent output. Differences in opinion about how the project should proceed, what should be given priority and how best to communicate can and did impede efforts to complete the project to deadline. On the positive side, it is only by making mistakes and reflecting on them that lead to an understanding of how best to approach a new challenge.