On the Existence of Digital Objects

On the Existence of Digital Objects

Yuk Hui

How and why digital objects are best theorized through relations

336 Pages, 6 x 9 in



On the Existence of Digital Objects

Series: Electronic Mediations

Yuk Hui

ISBN: 9780816698912

Publication date: February 29th, 2016

336 Pages


8 x 5

"The object of this remarkable, groundbreaking book is as elegant as it is profound—to provide us with a radically objective account of the digital objects that populate our world, both on- and offline. On the Existence of Digital Objects is a truly innovative and philosophically grounded ‘object oriented ontology’ that is designed for and can scale to the increasingly complex orders of magnitude confronted in the twenty-first century."—David J. Gunkel, author of The Machine Question

"Hui adeptly blends his technical training and philosophical knowledge to address a fundamental question: what is the relationship between technological and humanistic concerns?"—Public Books

"Hui unveils the political agenda of “bringing society together” where “techniques can be re-inscribed in culture”, conducted through a clear and documented essay."—Neural

"Hui’s project is remarkable for a conceptual engagement with twentieth-century philosophies of technology (Simondon, Heidegger, Husserl, Stiegler, Ellul) that pushes these theories further by confronting them with questions of the digital."—Radical Philosophy

Digital objects, in their simplest form, are data. They are also a new kind of industrial object that pervades every aspect of our life today—as online videos, images, text files, e-mails, blog posts, Facebook events.Yet, despite their ubiquity, the nature of digital objects remains unclear.

On the Existence of Digital Objects conducts a philosophical examination of digital objects and their organizing schema by creating a dialogue between Martin Heidegger and Gilbert Simondon, which Yuk Hui contextualizes within the history of computing. How can digital objects be understood according to individualization and individuation? Hui pursues this question through the history of ontology and the study of markup languages and Web ontologies; he investigates the existential structure of digital objects within their systems and milieux. With this relational approach toward digital objects and technical systems, the book addresses alienation, described by Simondon as the consequence of mistakenly viewing technics in opposition to culture.

Interdisciplinary in philosophical and technical insights, with close readings of Husserl, Heidegger, and Simondon as well as the history of computing and the Web, Hui’s work develops an original, productive way of thinking about the data and metadata that increasingly define our world.

Yuk Hui is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media in Leuphana University in Germany.

Bernard Stiegler is head of the Institut de recherche et d’innovation of the Centre Pompidou.


Bernard Stiegler
Introduction: Outline of an Investigation on Digital Objects
Part I. Objects
1. The Genesis of Digital Objects
2. Digital Objects and Ontologies
Part II. Relations
3. The Space of Networks
4. The Time of Technical Systems
Part III. Logics
5. Logic and Object
6. Logic and Time