This Digital Dialogue is also a launch event for Matthew Kirschenbaum’s new book Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, sponsored by the English department’s Center for Literary and Comparative Studies. Neil Fraistat will be on hand to host, and discuss the book with Matt. Copies will be available!
About the Book:
The story of writing in the digital age is every bit as messy as the ink-stained rags that littered the floor of Gutenberg’s print shop or the hot molten lead of the Linotype machine. During the period of the pivotal growth and widespread adoption of word processing as a writing technology, some authors embraced it as a marvel while others decried it as the death of literature. The product of years of archival research and numerous interviews conducted by the author, Track Changes is the first literary history of word processing.
Matthew Kirschenbaum examines how the interests and ideals of creative authorship came to coexist with the computer revolution. Who were the first adopters? What kind of anxieties did they share? Was word processing perceived as just a better typewriter or something more? How did it change our understanding of writing?
Track Changes balances the stories of individual writers with a consideration of how the seemingly ineffable act of writing is always grounded in particular instruments and media, from quills to keyboards. Along the way, we discover the candidates for the first novel written on a word processor, explore the surprisingly varied reasons why writers of both popular and serious literature adopted the technology, trace the spread of new metaphors and ideas from word processing in fiction and poetry, and consider the fate of literary scholarship and memory in an era when the final remnants of authorship may consist of folders on a hard drive or documents in the cloud.
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH, an applied thinktank for the digital humanities). He is also an affiliated faculty member with the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at Maryland, and a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. Kirschenbaum served as the first director of the new Digital Cultures and Creativity living/learning program in the Honors College at Maryland.
A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, he specializes in digital humanities, electronic literature, virtual worlds, serious games and simulations, textual studies, and postmodern/experimental literature. His first book, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, was published by the MIT Press in 2008.Mechanisms has won the 2009 Richard J. Finneran Award from the Society for Textual Scholarship (STS), the 2009 George A. and Jean S. DeLong Prize from the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP), and the 16th annual Prize for a First Book from the Modern Language Association (MLA). Much of his work now focuses on the critical and scholarly implications of the shift to born-digital textual and cultural production. He was principal investigator for the NEH funded start-up “Approaches to Managing and Collecting Born-Digital Literary Materials for Scholarly Use” and is also a co-investigator on the NDIIPP-and IMLS-funded project devoted to Preserving Virtual Worlds (2007 to present). In 2010 he co-authored (with Richard Ovenden and Gabriela Redwine) Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections, a report published by the Council on Library and Information Resources and recognized with a commendation from the Society of American Archivists. He also oversees work on the Deena Larsen Collection at MITH, a vast personal archive of hardware and software furnishing a cross-section of the electronic writing community during its key formative years, roughly 1985-1995. Kirschenbaum serves on the editorial or advisory boards of a number of projects and publications, including Postmodern Culture, Text Technology, Textual Cultures, MediaCommons, and futureArch. An avid tabletop gamer, he contributes to the group blog Play the Past devoted to meaningful play and cultural heritage. His work has received coverage in the Atlantic, New York Times, National Public Radio, Wired, Boing Boing, Slashdot, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. See www.mkirschenbaum.net for more.