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· 109 ·· CHAPTER 3 · The Space of Networks In chapter 1 of this book, I discussed the concept of digital objects as a way of formulating a technical lineage from GSML to the semantic web by following Simondon’s concept of individualization, and in chapter 2 I traced the origins of objects in the theories of Cantwell Smith, Husserl, and Heidegger to understand the complexity within the concept itself. In this chapter, I propose to understand individuation by retrieving and reinterpreting the notion of relation through reading Heidegger and Simondon as well as to develop a genealogy from Aristotle through medieval philosophy, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Husserl, and Russell to recent computational technologies. If we can say that individualization implies a progression of form, then individuation subsequently accounts for a transformation in the operation of relations and structures. Throughout our analysis so far, we have tried to approach the digital object from its form (as in the metadata scheme). Metadata determines the object and its beyond, through what I would categorize as “relations .” The concept of relation has from medieval philosophy until recently been largely underdiscussed since, despite the fact that it has always been present and has haunted many philosophers. Aristotle cast a lot of doubt over it while he was determining his categories. This fueled a tendency throughout discussion among medieval philosophers, who argued about whether relations are able to be reduced to external accidents pertaining to the substance or whether relations are monadic properties of a sui generis type. Throughout this chapter, I want to examine the question of “relation” in the context of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. Then, in chapter 4, I develop the concept “interobjectivity” as a parallel reading of Simondon’s speculative history of technology in Du mode d’existence des objets techniques to understand the technical progress of the informational age, especially regarding the concept of a “technical system.” 110 THE SPACE OF NETWORKS Ready-to-Hand versus Present-at-Hand Where is the digital object? If we take the computer in front of me as an example, than the answer is simple—I point to the machine and say, “It is there!” The machine itself occupies space; it informs the user of its existence via its appearance. The occupied space is both measurable and calculable, being amenable to what Kant would call a “pure intuition”— allowing the object to be perceived. The question subsequently becomes more complicated if we should ask, “What is the space of a digital object such as a Facebook profile page or a picture on Flickr?” A digital object is on the screen, despite its appearance as a 3D object. But it does not extend into physical space, although it appears to “occupy space.” We are able to interact with this “space” by using a mouse or by using a finger (if it is a touch screen device). There is a space that exists on the screen, which has been referred to as cyberspace. The “space” of cyberspace is only significant when we consider the appearance of an object, because we will subsequently ask, “Where is this object, and how does it appear to us?” This questioning moves us away from the Kantian understanding—because to Kant space is something to be occupied; it is intuited, but it is nevertheless physical. As Kant said, “if from your experiential concept of a body you gradually omit everything that is empirical in a body—the colour, the hardness or softness, the weight, even the impenetrability—there yet remains the space that was occupied by the body (which has now entirely vanished, and this space you cannot omit [from the concept]).”1 Kant attempted to demonstrate that the body occupies a space that does not simply vanish with the disappearance of the qualities (i.e., it cannot be omitted from the concept of a body itself). Moreover, as long as the space of a “digital object” is not yet defined as a priori, we are unable to articulate the “cyberspace” in terms of the space that we inhabit/encounter when using a chair, a computer, or some other physical object. When the qualities of a digital object disappear—as when we delete them layer by layer within our computers—by the end we find there is no longer anything there. If we were to find something remaining , it would likely be some record or trace acknowledging that something did exist there previously or perhaps take the form of missing links and bugs...


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