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Title: On the existence of digital objects
Author: Hui, Yuk
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 5620
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available