Track Changes: the literary history of word processing, with Matthew Kirschenbaum

With the Humanities Center’s Book History Seminar, metaLAB is sponsoring a visit by Matthew Kirschenbaum, whose forthcoming Track Changes: The Literary History of Word Processing (Harvard) is already helping to illuminate the effects of word-processing systems on literary works and lives in the late twentieth century. I can say “already” because Kirschenbaum is a generous scholar, quick to share discoveries and insights as they unfold in his research through speaking, publishing, and social media (you can sample the work at Tracking the Literary History of Word Processing, his tumblr for the book in progress). Kirschenbaum will be speaking on Thursday, October 17 at five o’clock in the evening, in Barker Center, Room 133; he sets up his book, and the talk, as follows:

Mark Twain famously prepared the manuscript for Life on the Mississippi (1883) with his new Remington typewriter, the first literary text ever submitted to a publisher in typewritten form. Today we recognize that the typewriter changed the history and material culture of authorship. But when did writers begin using word processors? Who were the early adopters? How did the technology change their relationship to their craft? Was the computer just a better typewriter—faster, easier to use—or was it something more? And what will be the fate of today’s “manuscripts,” which take the form of electronic files in folders on hard drives, instead of papers in hard copy? This talk will provide some answers, and also address questions related to the challenges of conducting research at the intersection of literary and technological history.

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 think tank for the digital humanities). His first book, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination, was published by the MIT Press in 2008 and 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). Kirschenbaum speaks and writes often on topics in the digital humanities and new media; his work has received coverage in the Atlantic, Slate, New York Times, The Guardian, National Public Radio, Wired, Boing Boing, Slashdot, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. See mkirschenbaum.net for more.