Explorations of the many ways of being material in the digital age.
In his oracular 1995 book Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte predicted that social relations, media, and commerce would move from the realm of “atoms to bits”—that human affairs would be increasingly untethered from the material world. And yet in 2019, an age dominated by the digital, we have not quite left the material world behind. In Being Material, artists and technologists explore the relationship of the digital to the material, demonstrating that processes that seem wholly immaterial function within material constraints. Digital technologies themselves, they remind us, are material things—constituted by atoms of gold, silver, silicon, copper, tin, tungsten, and more.
The contributors explore five modes of being material: programmable, wearable, livable, invisible, and audible. Their contributions take the form of reports, manifestos, philosophical essays, and artist portfolios, among other configurations. The book's cover merges the possibilities of paper with those of the digital, featuring a bookmark-like card that, when “seen” by a smartphone, generates graphic arrangements that unlock films, music, and other dynamic content on the book's website. At once artist's book, digitally activated object, and collection of scholarship, this book both demonstrates and chronicles the many ways of being material.
Contributors Christina Agapakis, Azra Akšamija, Sandy Alexandre, Dewa Alit, George Barbastathis, Maya Beiser, Marie-Pier Boucher, Benjamin H. Bratton, Hussein Chalayan, Jim Cybulski, Tal Danino, Deborah G. Douglas, Arnold Dreyblatt, M. Amah Edoh, Michelle Tolini Finamore, Team Foldscope and Global Foldscope community, Ben Fry, Victor Gama, Stefan Helmreich, Hyphen-Labs, Leila Kinney, Rebecca Konte, Winona LaDuke, Brendan Landis, Grace Leslie, Bill Maurer, Lucy McRae, Tom Özden-Schilling, Trevor Paglen, Lisa Parks, Nadya Peek, Claire Pentecost, Manu Prakash,Casey Reas, Paweł Romańczuk, Natasha D. Schüll, Nick Shapiro, Skylar Tibbits, Rebecca Uchill, Evan Ziporyn Book Design: E Roon Kang Electronics, interactions, and product designer: Marcelo Coelho
Marie-Pier Boucher is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Toronto and former Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow at MIT.
Stefan Helmreich is Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology at MIT. He is the author of Alien Ocean, Sounding the Limits of Life, and Silicon Second Nature.
Leila W. Kinney is Executive Director of Arts Initiatives at MIT and of the Center for Art, Science, & Technology (CAST).
Skylar Tibbits is Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at MIT, where he is also the founder of the Self Assembly Lab. His work has been exhibited at the Guggenheim in New York, the FRAC Centre, the Beijing Biennale, and the Centre Pompidou.
Rebecca Uchill is a full-time Lecturer an Art Education, Art History, and Media Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and former Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow at MIT.
Evan Ziporyn, a composer and clarinetist, is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor, Chair of the Music and Theater Arts Department, and inaugural Director of CAST at MIT.