What actually is digital?

 
Is it something that happens only on screens and in the virtual world?

> Or is it a set of principles, we could design and build by? 





 




As part of my postgraduate at the RCA im looking into this question. The theoretical background of this exploration is covered in the dissertation I wrote on this topic last year. Some of the physical outcomes are shown here. Please let me know what you think!
Digital has brought us two major revolutions before, that’s for sure. Both led to enormous leaps in efficiency; first in communication, then in computation. Today we are at the start of the third, and possibly most influential digital revolution; that of fabrication. The starting point for this project has been the approach of ‘digital’ as a set of principles, rather than something that happens in the virtual world. What happens when the laws of digital start to affect our physical world? Could it give us yet another leap in efficiency, this time in terms of material?

Digital fabrication processes are gradually allowing us to design our materials, but the physical results remain analogue: continuous and solid. Imagine we could assemble the materials we design with small separate blocks, that can be used again in other configurations - like LEGO bricks, or atoms that form new molecules?
Since digital processes can be reversed; could the fabrication of an object then be ‘undone’? Neil Gershenfeld and his research group at the Centre for Bits and Atoms at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are quite seriously working towards this poetic future of digital materials. Their work has been the main inspiration for this project.

When Digital Gets Physical is an ongoing research project exploring applications of digital materials at different scales, ranging from micro (submillimeter) to macro (architectural). The laws of digital building offer huge potential in terms of structural efficiency and material re-use.

The aim of this project is to tell this story, and deploy some of that potential already today.