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1. Between Bits and Atoms: Physical Computing and Desktop Fabrication in the Humanities

Jentery Sayers, Devon Elliott, Kari Kraus, Bethany Nowviskie and William J. Turkel

Subject Literature

Key-Topics electronic media, technology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781118680643.2016.00003.x


Humanities scholars now live in a moment where it is rapidly becoming possible – as Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman suggest – for “regular people [to] rip, mix, and burn physical objects as effortlessly as they edit a digital photograph” ( Lipson and Kurman, 2013 :10). Lipson and Kurman describe this phenomenon in Fabricated , explaining how archaeologists are able to CT scan cuneiforms in the field, create 3D models of them, and then send the data to a 3D printer back home, where replicas are made. [I]n the process [they] discovered an unexpected bonus in this cuneiform fax experiment: the CT scan captured written characters on both the inside and outside of the cuneiform. Researchers have known for centuries that many cuneiform bear written messages in their hollow insides. However until now, the only way to see the inner message has been to shatter (hence destroy) the cuneiform. One of the benefits of CT scanning and 3D printing a replica of a cuneiform is that you can cheerfully smash the printed replica to pieces to read what's written on the inside. ( Lipson and Kurman, 2013 :19–20) Manifesting what Neil Gershenfeld calls “the programmability of the digital worlds we've invented” applied “to the physical world we inhabit” ( Gershenfeld, 2005 :17), these new kinds of objects move easily, back and forth, in the space between bits and atoms. But this full circuit through analog ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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