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robertogreco : isaacasimov   10

How to Write a History of Writing Software - The Atlantic
"Isaac Asimov, John Updike, and John Hersey changed their writing habits to adapt to word processors, according to the first literary historian of the technology."



"There are three things I really like about that story and why I feel like it’s the best candidate for quote-unquote “first.”

One, it defamiliarizes our sense of what word processing is. It’s not a typewriter connected to a TV set. The key thing turns out to be the magnetic storage layer. The other thing thing I like about it is—there’s a term I use in the book, “suspended encryption.” That captures that dynamic of word processing: You’re writing, but there’s a kind of suspended animation to it. The text remains in its fluid, malleable state, until such time as you commit it to hard copy.

The other thing I like about the story is that it captures that gendered dynamic, that social dimension of writing. It’s not just the author alone at his typewriter. It’s really a collaborative process, there is a gender dimension to it, and there’s something very human about it, I think."



"Meyer: There is a material history you can read from a typewriter. I think you mention the example of Lawrence Rainey, a scholar of T.S. Eliot, being able to decode The Waste Land’s compositional history by looking at his typewriter. And I remember there being anxiety around writing software, and the future of that kind of scholarship. Did writing this history make you buy into the anxiety that we won’t be able to preserve contemporary literary work?

Kirschenbaum: So much of writing now, and that includes literary writing, that includes novels and poetry that will become culturally resonant and important—all of this happens now digitally. And that was something that I was interesting in writing about, writing the book. What I found is that there were often very surprising examples of evidence remaining, even from these early days of word processing history.

There’s a kind of paradox at the heart of this. As you know, we’ve all lost files, or had important stuff disappear into the [digital] ether, so there’s all that volatility and fragility we associate with the computer. But it’s also a remarkably resilient medium. And there are some writers who are using the actual track-changes feature or some other kind of versioning system to preserve their own literary manuscripts literally keystroke by keystroke."



"Meyer: You talk a little bit about looking at different paths for word processing after Word. You go into “austerityware,” which is your phrase for software like WriteRoom, which tries to cut down on distractions. Is there any prognosticating you feel like you could do about what’s catching on next?

Kirschenbaum: I do think we’re seeing this interesting return to what instructors of writing for a long time have called free writing, which is just about the uninhibited process of getting stuff out there, doing that sort of initial quick and dirty draft. What’s interesting to me is that there are now particular tools and platforms that are emerging with that precise model of writing in mind.

The one that’s gotten the most attention is the one I write about at the end of the book. At the time I was writing, it was called the Hemingwrite, but now it’s called Freewrite. It’s essentially a very lightweight, very portable keyboard, with a small screen and portable memory. It reminds me of the way a lot of writers talk about their fountain pens—these exquisitely crafted and engineers fine instruments for writing. The Freewrite aspires to bring that same level of craft and deliberation to the fabrication of a purpose-built writing instrument.

So, you know, in a sense, I think we’re going to see more and more of those special-purpose writing platforms. I think writing might move away from the general-purpose computer—we’ll still do lots of writing of all sorts at our regular laptop, but it might be your email, your social media. For dedicated long-form writing, I think there may be more and more alternatives."



"Meyer: One thing I love about the book are all the office pictures—the pictures from ’80s offices, especially. There is a sense looking at the images that the desks are retrofitted writers’s desks, rather than the kind of generic surface-with-a-laptop setup that I think a lot of people work at now.

Kirschenbaum: The visual history of all of this is really interesting. One of the hard thing was trying to figure out is, what is a literary history of word processing, how do you go about researching it? Maybe by going to the archives, but you also do it by looking at the way in which computers really were represented in the kind of imagery I was looking at earlier. You look at the old office photographs. You see a picture of Amy Tan sitting with a laptop and you try to figure out what kind of laptop it is, and lastly you do it by talking to people. It was the oral histories I did that were the best research for the book."
robinsonmeyer  wordprocessing  software  history  isaacasimov  johnupdike  writing  howewrite  computing  matthewkirschenbaum  lendeighton  ellenorhandley  johnhersey  jerrypournelle  sciencefiction  scifi  thomaspynchon  gorevidal  charlesbukowski  rcrumb  tseliot  lawrencerainey  trackchanges  typing  typewriters  freewrite  writeroom  hamingwrite  evekosofskysedgwick  howwework  howwewrite  amytan 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Total Archive.
[See also: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/25660

"The Total Archive: Dreams of Universal Knowledge from the Encyclopaedia to Big Data
19 March 2015 - 20 March 2015



The complete system of knowledge is a standard trope of science fiction, a techno-utopian dream and an aesthetic ideal. It is Solomon’s House, the Encyclopaedia and the Museum. It is also an ideology – of Enlightenment, High Modernism and absolute governance.

Far from ending the dream of a total archive, twentieth-century positivist rationality brought it ever closer. From Paul Otlet’s Mundaneum to Mass-Observation, from the Unity of Science movement to Isaac Asimov’s Encyclopedia Galactica, from the Whole Earth Catalog to Wikipedia, the dream of universal knowledge dies hard. These projects triumphantly burst their own bounds, generating more archival material, more information, than can ever be processed. When it encounters well defined areas – the sportsfield or the model organism – the total archive tracks every movement of every player, of recording every gene and mutation. Increasingly this approach is inverted: databases are linked; quantities are demanded where only qualities existed before. The Human Genome Project is the most famous, but now there are countless databases demanding ever more varied input. Here the question of what is excluded becomes central.

The total archive is a political tool. It encompasses population statistics, GDP, indices of the Standard of Living and the international ideology of UNESCO, the WHO, the free market and, most recently, Big Data. The information-gathering practices of statecraft are the total archive par excellence, carrying the potential to transfer power into the open fields of economics and law – or divest it into the hands of criminals, researchers and activists.

Questions of the total archive engage key issues in the philosophy of classification, the poetics of the universal, the ideology of surveillance and the technologies of information retrieval. What are the social structures and political dynamics required to sustain total archives, and what are the temporalities implied by such projects?

In order to confront the ideology and increasing reality of interconnected data-sets and communication technologies we need a robust conceptual framework – one that does not sacrifice historical nuance for the ability to speculate. This conference brings together scholars from a wide range of fields to discuss the aesthetics and political reality of the total archive."]
tumblr  classification  maps  knowledge  2015  tumblrs  archives  universality  collections  data  politics  bigdata  history  encyclopedias  paulotlet  mundaneum  isaacasimov  encyclopediagalactica  wholeearthcatalog  museums  ideology  highmodernism  sccifi  sciencefiction  humangenomeproject  libraries  wikipedia  universalknowledge 
march 2015 by robertogreco
enough about us - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"This is all really, really good stuff — vital stuff — and yet I find that reading it makes me tired. More about me? More about us? More about the endless performative dance of selfhood? Even if the analysis is critical rather than consumerist or celebratory, it keeps turning us inward. This kind of semiotic/cultural analysis is my thing, in a very serious way, but there’s so much of it now I just want to go for a walk with my dog or sit under a tree and listen to birds or practice some form of kenotic meditation.

Anyone who has ever tried to think knows the value of escaping, from time to time, the gravitational pull of even those topics that most fascinate you and seeing them in new and vivid ways after re-entry. (“The Eureka Phenomenon,” Isaac Asimov called it in an essay that used to be a staple of freshman composition courses.) This is not to say that taking a break from thinking about the technologically-assisted self is an escape from the self. But it reorients you; it reminds you that the world is bigger than your habitual, everyday experience of it. That’s a good thing."
lanjacobs  exhaustion  timeoiut  2014  digitaldualism  identity  self  joshglenn  judithdonath  robhorning  pause  slow  perspective  backburner  isaacasimov 
may 2014 by robertogreco
BruceS — Predicting 2014
"From 1964, in the New York Times: August 16, 1964, "Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014" by Isaac Asimov"

"The situation will have been made the more serious by the advances of automation. The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction. Part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process. It is not only the techniques of teaching that will advance, however, but also the subject matter that will change. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran” (from “formula translation”).

Even so, mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.

Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!"
2014  isaacasimov  leisurearts  artleisure  automation  work  labor  universalbasicincome  predictions  boredom  society  ubi 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Isaac Asimov - The Foundation Trilogy : Isaac Asimov : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
"The Foundation Trilogy is an epic science fiction series written over a span of forty-four years by Isaac Asimov. It consists of seven volumes that are closely linked to each other, although they can be read separately. The series is highly acclaimed, winning the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966.

The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept devised by Asimov and his editor John W. Campbell. Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire. It works on the principle that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy). The larger the mass, the more predictable is the future. Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire…"
sciencefiction  scifi  books  audio  tolisten  edg  srg  audiobooks  sound  foundationtrilogy  isaacasimov 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Children of Troy « Snarkmarket
"This little correspondence cracked like lightning in my head. I mean, it’s no big deal; it’s a small thing, it’s a letter, they were both in Michigan, it makes perfect sense. And yet, and yet: Clifton Wharton, president of Michigan State University, and Marguerite Hart, librarian of Troy—a tangible thread connected them. And as soon as you realize that, you can’t help but imagine the other threads, the other connections, that all together make a net, woven before you were born, before you were even dreamed of—a net to catch you, support you, lift you up. Libraries and universities, books and free spaces—all for us, all of us, the children of Troy everywhere.

What fortune. Born at the right time."

[…]

"And it’s not the librarian laughing and crying at the same time here; it’s me. Every time I’ve read these letters, it’s me."
snarkmarket  robinsloan  libraries  troy  cityoftroy  books  memories  memory  childhood  reading  librarians  connections  knowledge  freespaces  letters  universities  michigan  michiganstate  ebwhite  isaacasimov  cliftonwharton  margueritehart  johnburns  1971  2011  publiclibraries  education  learning  experience  comments 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Quote of the day: Asimov on art vs. science : bioephemera
"How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers."

-- Isaac Asimov, Prometheus," The Roving Mind (1983)
isaacasimov  science  art  interconnectivity  interconnectedness  imagination  creativity  rationality  emotions  intuition  interconnected 
january 2011 by robertogreco
RORY HYDE PROJECTS / BLOG » Blog Archive » ‘Know No Boundaries’: an interview with Matt Webb of BERG London
"we attempt to invent things and create culture. It’s not just enough to invent something and see it once, you have to change the world around you, get underneath it, interfere with it somehow, because otherwise you’re just problem solving. And I wont say that design has an exclusive hold over this – you can invent things and change culture with art, music, business practices, ethnography, market research; all of these are valid too – design just happens to be the way we do it…our things should be hopeful, and not just functional…beautiful, inventive and mainstream…you could see our work as experimental, or science-fiction, or futuristic…our design is essentially a political act. We design ‘normative’ products, normative being that you design for the world as it should be. Invention is always for the world as it should be, and not for the world you are in…Design these products and you’ll move the world just slightly in that direction."
mattwebb  berg  berglondon  design  invention  hope  culture  change  purpose  innovation  scifi  sciencefiction  designfiction  beauty  future  inventingthefuture  speculative  speculativedesign  fractionalai  ai  brucesterling  evolutionarysoup  storytelling  isaacasimov  arthurcclarke  argoscatalog  schooloscope  behavior  evocativeobjects  collaboration  functionalism  technology  architecture  people  structure  groups  experience  interdisciplinary  tinkering  multidisciplinary  play  playfulness  crossdisciplinary  flip  gamechanging 
january 2011 by robertogreco
When Science Asks, “What If?” § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
"We can’t overestimate the merits of science fiction—nor its ability to affect the world. Isaac Asimov observed that, “science-fiction writers and readers didn’t put a man on the Moon all by themselves, but they created a climate in which the goal of putting a man on the Moon became acceptable.” Are we to assume that writers will not continue to create such climates? What will the next “cyberspace” be, or the next Moon landing, and who will invent it? Science-fiction writers in the year 2050 will be imagining the year 3000, and beyond, and so on. It’s a living, breathing tradition that informs the very world it critiques, inventing new myths, words, and realities just as we catch up to its old ones. Our greatest science-fiction writers feed the future with speculation as we move towards it, and we are all better off for considering what they have to say."
science  sciencefiction  scifi  williamgibson  isaacasimov  storytelling  society  future  inspiration  seed 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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