Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

University of Maryland

Track Changes

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.


So, yeah, I’m thrilled, chuffed, and floored to be announcing that I was selected as a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.

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.


  Chuck Tryon wrote @

Congrats, Matt. This is great news and well deserved!

  Davin Heckman wrote @


  Borja – Seguros wrote @

Congratulations for being selected and good luck with your proyects.

  Mick – Anuncios de TV wrote @

Congratulations Matt! You deserve it!

[…] reflection on being named a Guggenheim […]

  During My Fellowship « Matthew G. Kirschenbaum wrote @

[…] will be on leave with a Guggenheim fellowship from August 2011 to August 2012, working on my new book project. During this period I will be adopting the following policies to protect the research time with […]

[…] of Maryland and associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. In an upcoming book, he will  book delve into the history of writers and word […]

  Jackie Dooley wrote @

Adding my congrats! And the project sounds fantastic.

  A Literary History of Word Processing | Literature wrote @

[…] lecture was drawn from Mr. Kirschenbaum’s book “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” which Harvard University Press is set to publish in 2013, or as soon as he can finish tapping it […]

  A Literary History of Word Processing | Articles Blog wrote @

[…] lecture was drawn from Mr. Kirschenbaum’s book “Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing,” which Harvard University Press is set to publish in 2013, or as soon as he can finish tapping it […]

  Books » Archive » Has Microsoft Word changed writing? wrote @

[…] research on the subject. Which is why it’s nice to see that an American academic, Professor Matthew Kirschenbaum of the University of Maryland, has taken up the challenge by embarking on a literary history of […]

  Dr. James R. Pannozzi DOM wrote @

My goodness what wonderful memories those old computers bring. The desktop micros made my entire career! I was a has- been mainframe programmer from the early 70s but saw the potential of the micros by about 1977-78 while developing Trident Sub software on minis. Got in micro development in 1979 and started programming IBM Personal computers to develop communications software in 1984. We used Wordstar to write the programs in and I still remember the CTRL-K combinations to get things done.

I hope you will also include what Word processing was available on the hard to find Xerox Alto computer (an early micro computer from the mid 70s, a legend), and the Symbolics and Lisp machine workstations (a small group of hobbyists still have these in working condition). These were the machines we regular software engineers dreamed of using.

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