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robertogreco : matthewkirschenbaum   4

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 Web as a Preservation Medium | inkdroid
"So how to wrap up this strange, fragmented, incomplete tour through Web preservation? I feel like I should say something profound, but I was hoping these stories of the Web would do that for me. I can only say for myself that I want to give back to the Web the way it has given to me. With 25 years behind us the Web needs us more than ever to help care for the archival slivers it contains. I think libraries, museums and archives that realize that they are custodians of the Web, and align their mission with the grain of the Web, will be the ones that survive, and prosper. Brian Fitzpatrick, Jason Scott, Brewster Kahle, Mislav Marohnic, Philip Cromer, Jeremy Ruten and Aaron Swartz demonstrated their willingness to work with the Web as a medium in need of preservation, as well as a medium for doing the preservation. We need more of them. We need to provide spaces for them to do their work. They are the new faces of our profession."
archiving  web  digitalpreservation  digital  facebook  archiveteam  archives  twitter  internet  edsummers  2013  preservation  aaronswartz  timberners-lee  marshallmcluhan  kisagitelman  matthewkirschenbaum  davidbrunton  linkrot  www  adamliptak  supremecourt  scotus  lapsteddomains  brewsterkahle  urls  html  permalinks  paulbausch  jasonscott  mihaiparparita  zombiereader  googlereader  impermanence  markpilgrim  jonathangillette  rss  _why  information  markdown  mslavmarohnic  philipcromer  jeremyruten  github  williamgibson  degradation  data  cern  grailbird  google  davewiner  rufuspollock  distributed  decentralization  collaboration  brianfitzpatrick 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Do School Libraries Need Books? - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com
"Keeping traditional school libraries up to date is costly, with the constant need to acquire new books and to find space to store them. Yet for all that trouble, students roam the stacks less and less because they find it so much more efficient to work online. One school, Cushing Academy, made news last fall when it announced that it would give away most of its 20,000 books and transform its library into a digital center.
education  learning  technology  schools  internet  future  online  books  research  libraries  digital  digitization  reading  ebooks  advocacy  debate  library2.0  nicholascarr  lizgray  williampowers  jamestracy  cushingacademy  matthewkirschenbaum 
february 2010 by robertogreco

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