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Digital Contagions

A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses, Second Edition


Jussi Parikka

Now in its second edition, Digital Contagions is the first book to offer a comprehensive and critical analysis of the culture and history of the computer virus.
At a time when our networks arguably feel more insecure than ever, the book provides an overview of how our fears about networks are part of a more complex story of the development of digital culture. It writes a media archaeology of computer and network accidents that are endemic to the computational media ecology. Viruses, worms, and other software objects are not seen merely from the perspective of anti-virus research or practical security concerns, but as cultural and historical expressions that traverse a non-linear field from fiction to technical media, from net art to politics of software.
Mapping the anomalies of network culture from the angles of security concerns, the biopolitics of computer systems, and the aspirations for artificial life in software, this second edition also pays attention to the emergence of recent issues of cybersecurity and new forms of digital insecurity. A new preface by Sean Cubitt is also provided.


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Intermezzo: Viral Philosophy


intermezzo Viral Philosophy The viral expands into various contexts from cybernetics and computing to biology, literature, television, cinema, and media art. In addition, the term “viral” also slipped in as part of philosophical theory and cyber theory in the 1990s. As Ruth Mayer and Brigitte Weingart aptly note, the viral culture of the 1980s and its marginalization of AIDS carriers gave birth to a related buzz within philosophy and cultural theory where the liminality of the viral and its associations with subversion, novelty, and transversality were taken as motors of a certain brand of theory.1 The resonance of the term “viral” with Derrida’s pharmakon seemed suddenly obvious, and hence also the incorporation of the viral into theories of deconstruction and plays of difference.2 In addition, in the chapter on “Rhizome” in their A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guat- tari highlight the philosophical underpinnings and promises of the idea of a “virus.” This alignment is to be understood as a vector of becoming where two series (the host and the parasite) momentarily resonate together and form a novel circuit of entanglement. Thinking with Deleuze and Guattari, evolu- tion does not have to rely on the arborescent models of hierarchy and descent. Instead, viral evolution is a transversal connection machine that jumps across species and smuggles renegade bits of DNA along with it. Not merely “biolog- ical fact,” it amounts to an image of thought as well, jumping scales: “We form a rhizome with our viruses, or rather our viruses cause us...

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