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There are no in-betweens.” That digital bits have only two possible values leaves many to argue that, in the words of Robert Pepperell (2003, 126), “digital information is discrete and ‘clean’, whilst analogue information is continuous and ‘noisy’.” Robinson (2008, 21) defines analog as: “smoothly varying, of a piece with the apparent seamless and inviolable veracity of space and time; like space and time admitting inﬁnite subdivision, and by association with them connoting something authentic and natural, against the artiﬁcial, arbitrarily truncated precision of the digital (e.g., vinyl records vs.
CDs).” One example is the synthesizer, which in the mid 1960s and 1970s produced sound through “continuous variables such as changing voltages” instead of binary 1s and 0s (Pinch and Trocco, 2002, 7).
A bit can interact with any other bit, regardless of “the forms that were initially transformed into digits, or what the digits represent when accessed by the end-user” (Flew, 9).
Yet, the universality of digital information requires that it be stripped of any non-essential “additional information” (Dretske, 1982: 137), or of any “intrinsic redundancies and repetitions” (Negroponte, 1995: 16).
Manoff, 2006, 312) quality of information generated through digitization, while deemphasizing the material systems (transistors) on which that information is housed.
That being said, it would be a mistake to ignore that digital information is ultimately stored on and communicated through the physical orientation of material transistors as bits.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) traces the first uses of the terms ‘digitization’ and ‘digitalization’ in conjunction with computers to the mid-1950s. In the OED, digitization refers to “the action or process of digitizing; the conversion of analogue data (esp.
in later use images, video, and text) into digital form.” Digitalization, by contrast, refers to “the adoption or increase in use of digital or computer technology by an organization, industry, country, etc.” We follow this distinction in this article and define as the way in which many domains of social life are restructured around digital communication and media infrastructures.
While it is useful to recognize the active mediation work performed by digital technologies, Jonathan Sterne’s history of sound reproduction makes a strong case that the same is true for analog technologies.
In the pages that follow, we discuss these distinct, yet interrelated, concepts.
Scholars across disciplines use the term digitization to refer to the technical process of converting streams of analog information into digital bits of 1s and 0s with discrete and discontinuous values.
Theoretically, almost any material with two easily differentiated states can be used to store and communicate digitized signals, including silicone transistors, punch cards, or atoms.
This has motivated many scholars to highlight the “immaterial” (e.g.