Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Digital Materials

The project “Digital Materials” is about the conception, exploration and analysis of possibilities to make digital processes directly operative and tangible in physical materials and examines how the fiction of these “Digital Materials” could affect on figures of interaction between human subjects and materials.

Digital Materials

The project introduces the fiction of “Digital Materials” and aims to show how an iterative process of describing, analysing and prototyping these textile materials might contribute to the creation of non-hierarchical and non-determined forms of tangible interaction between humans and digital technologies. The idea of designing “Digital Materials” is driven by the shimmering possibilities that might to be found there, where our continuous sensory experiences of the physical world enter into a dynamic engagement with the infinite discrete alternatives of the digital world.

The term Digital Materials refers to a speculative situation in which digital processes are embodied directly in physical structures, which enables materials to transform dynamically and in a self-acting way and in which humans tangibly interact with such digitally infused materials. The exploration is carried out on the example of textiles, because textiles share an intimate relationship with the body, offer versatile haptic and functional properties and their binary construction principle is historically connected to the development of computers.

In addition to the illustration of possible future interaction scenarios, the project is primarily concerned with the investigation of the basic elements that underlie its conception. Therefor the fundamental principles of relations between analog and digital within material structures are examined through a closely intertwined process of prototyping and reflection based on a non-static notion of information.
The approach of Digital Materials converts the understanding of digital technologies as tools to an understanding of digital technologies as materials. This conceptual shift allows to concentrate on the interaction process itself rather than focus on its results. Based on that the project explores the question, how materials might be (re)developed, (re)constructed and (re)used in such a way that digital information may be absorbed by the materials and expressed in (dynamic) manifestations or self-transformation of the materials.

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