Reconceiving the Digital Network: From Cells to Selves | Johnson et al (2022)

Reconceiving the Digital Network: From Cells to Selves

Mark William Johnson, Elizabeth Maitland, John Torday & Sebastian H. D. Fiedler 


First Online: 22 April 2022

Part of the Postdigital Science and Education book series (PSE)


The concept of the postdigital and current conceptions of the biodigital stem from an understanding of computer networks which itself has a history deriving from biology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This chapter traces the historical development of modern conceptions of ‘network’ from Rashevsky, to McCulloch and Pitts, through to the creation of the Internet, and current thinking about neural networks and machine learning. In tracing this history, we question the soundness of some of the assumptions made about networked digital phenomena and their relation to biological and phenomenological processes. In contrast to the topological node-arc model of networks, we argue that networks arise from evolutionary biological processes which are fundamentally oriented around boundary preservation rather than ‘connection’. Cellular connections observed as networks can be seen as epiphenomena of these underlying processes, where for example, a cell will establish ‘connection’ as a means of maintaining its viability in an uncertain environment. Taking a boundary-preservation viewpoint allows for a homological analysis of similar processes from cells to selves. We illustrate two areas where this viewpoint might be operationalised: in communication dynamics and in institutional organisation. We argue this is a richer way of investigating biodigital phenomena, and opens the door to new technological experiments and alternative visions of a technological society.

Reconceiving the Digital Network: From Cells to Selves | SpringerLink

And if your budget can’t stretch to the book Bioinformational Philosophy and Postdigital Knowledge Ecologies (though it sounds as fascinating as the title is long), also on Academia: