Alumni Services

August 2017

Digital representations, inspiring stories, and chemical works combine to form this month's pick of alumni-penned books.



Paul Dourish

Degree Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science

The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information

Virtual entities that populate our digital experience, like e-books, virtual worlds and online stores, are backed by the large-scale physical infrastructures of server farms, fiber optic cables, power plants and microwave links. But another domain of material constraints also shapes digital living: the digital representations sketched on whiteboards, encoded into software, stored in databases, loaded into computer memory and transmitted on networks. These digital representations encode aspects of our everyday world and make them available for digital processing. The limits and capacities of those representations carry significant consequences for digital society. 

In 'The Stuff of Bits', Paul Dourish examines the specific materialities that certain digital objects exhibit. He presents four case studies: emulation, the creation of a "virtual" computer inside another; digital spreadsheets and their role in organizational practice; relational databases and the issue of 'the databaseable'; and the evolution of digital networking and the representational entailments of network protocols. These case studies demonstrate how a materialist account can offer an entry point to broader concerns questions of power, policy and polity in the realm of the digital.

The Stuff of Bits


Author Scott Jackson
Degree Business Administration

Take Me With You

Scott Jackson’s story begins during America’s Civil Rights movement, a time when his own family fell apart, and his childhood became a struggle to escape his brutal reactionary father to live with his mother — an idealistic young woman with opposite values, sympathies and ambitions – and her new husband, an African American pastor who would fill the role of a good father where his natural father had fallen short.

Out of this complicated childhood Scott Jackson found himself on a life course that is focused on charity and spreading goodwill. He has risen to the highest levels of international charity, serving as senior vice-president of World Vision US and vice-president of PATH before joining Global Impact as CEO.

However, the main idea of 'Take Me With You' is not to deliver a narrative of one man’s life and times; this is a carefully articulated call to action to help those in need. Running parallel to the story of Scott’s experiences are short essays written to encourage others to make the connection between our own personal struggles and the larger cultural problems of people worldwide.

Take Me with You is an inspiring story with practical instruction for getting people involved, either in important small ways or making a larger commitment to achieve justice and an ecologically sustainable world.

Take Me With You



Ali Whiteford

Degree Chemistry

An Enormous Reckless Blunder: The Story of the Lewis Chemical Works

This book covers the story of the Lewis Chemical Works which existed on the Isle of Lewis from 1857 to 1874. In 1844 James Matheson had purchased the Isle of Lewis with the vast fortune he had made from trading in the far-east. He set about to exploit the natural resources of the island and in doing so, hoped to increase the lot of the inhabitants. Henry Caunter, an amateur scientist and business/political associate of Matheson, carried out experiments showing the commercial possibilities of making the recently discovered fuel, paraffin, from the abundant supplies of the island's peat. The result was the Lewis Chemical Works.
It is a story of hope, drama and pathos, inhabited by curious gentry, academics, scoundrels and the people of Lewis.

An Enormous Reckless Blunder

Your book

If you are a member of the alumni community and have recently published a book, we would be delighted to include it in the Alumni Bookshelf. Email the details, along with your degree details, to Brian Campbell:

Email Brian Campbell

Please note

All of the further information links listed are the external websites of the book publisher, the author, or the bookseller. The University of Edinburgh is not responsible for the content and functionality of these sites.