This essay contemplates the media histories and politics of the digital twin: an accurate three-dimensional model designed to offer data-based simulation, predictive capability, and remote control over a material entity. Currently being developed across the spheres of industry, design, and “smart city” governance, digital twins are “digital-physical” databases purporting not only to represent the appearance of an object but also to capture or simulate all changes to its physical and informatic state, down to the bolt or data point. What are the media histories and stakes of a real-time digital simulation of the world? What of the desire to imitate the physical world in fully machine-readable form? Through three episodes that contribute to the technological imaginary of the twin—the digital factory, the “smart” building model, and the 3D “dashboard” city—it shows how contemporary simulations do not simply reflect reality or create fictional ones but are committed to remaking reality over and over again—each time with greater efficiency, oversight, and predictability.

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