UPDATE: NYT readers, you may wish to have a look at a more recent post in which I’m specifically requesting research assistance on documenting the early history of literary word processing. Thanks.
In its eighty-seventh annual competition for the United States and Canada the Foundation has awarded 180 Fellowships to artists, scientists, and scholars. The successful candidates were chosen from a group of some 3,000 applicants.
Congratulations have been coming in from all over. Thank you once again to everyone who has written. The highlight was receiving a text message from my ten-year old niece who saw my name in the New York Times.
The project I will be working on is entitled “Track Changes: Authorship, Archives, and Literary Culture After Word Processing.” Unlike my first book, Mechanisms (2008), where I was primarily interested in experimental instances of electronic literature, here I will be looking at the impact of digital media throughout all sectors of contemporary literary composition, publishing, reception, and archival preservation. I intend to argue that the full parameters of computers as what electronic publishing pioneer Ted Nelson three decades ago called “literary machines” have not yet been fully delineated, and that as a consequence we conceive of print and the digital as rival or successive forms rather than as elements of a process wherein relations between the two media (at the level of both individual and collective practice) are considerably more dynamic and contingent. Ted Striphas’s work in the already-indispensable The Late Age of Print (2009) probably comes closest to the kind of study I am looking to accomplish, but whereas he focuses primarily on the commerce and commodity status of books in the present day, my interests lie in the material conditions of authorship and today’s technologies of the literary. (The “Track Changes” of my title was first introduced as the “Mark Revisions” feature in Word 95, where it was derivative of the Redline functionality in WordPerfect, then Word’s major industry competitor.) The methodology will be a hybrid of software studies and book history. The writing I do will build on the work I’ve done in the projects I’ve taken on since finishing Mechanisms, including “Approaches to Managing and Collecting Born-Digital Literary Materials for Scholarly Use,” Preserving Virtual Worlds, and Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections.
I will, of course, use this space to share occasional work in progress and otherwise offer updates on progress. In the meantime, I will be at TILTS at UT Austin at the end of May, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute and Digital Humanities 2011 conference in June, SHARP in DC in July, and then teaching once again at Rare Book School in Charlottesville. The fellowship period begins in August.