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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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Appendix: A Timeline of Computer Viruses and the Viral Assemblage


appendix A Timeline of Computer Viruses and the Viral Assemblage This timeline is intended as a heuristic tool-for-thought that places various events and contexts together in order. It is not an exhaustive archive of all the important dates, but it does give an overview of the development of viruses and related phenomena. The information has been gathered from a number of sources mentioned in the Bibliography. The estimated numbers of PC viruses are from F-Secure statistics. For a more detailed list of virus and worm incidents, see the Wikipedia-page at 1872 Samuel Butler discusses the fear of technology becoming self-reproductive in his novel Erewhon. 1936 Alan Turing develops his ideas of a so-called Turing machine that is able to simulate any other machine. 1948 C. E. Shannon formulates his mathematical theory of commu- nication, where he includes noise as part of the communica- tive act. 1949 John von Neumann lectures on “The Theory and Organiza- tion of Complicated Automata.” 1950s Biological virology is established as a key research area. 258 digital contagions 1953 Nils Barricelli’s experiments with ideas of symbiogenesis are applied to computers at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies. 1958 The principles of the modem for computer communication are established. 1959 Beatrice and Sydney Rome’s experiment on a “Leviathan-com- puter system” based on adaptability. 1961 Darwin, a game where digital organisms fight for memory space, is developed at the Bell Labs (a precursor of Core Wars, see year 1984). The second...

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