Matthew Kirschenbaum spoke about his forthcoming book project, which was recently profiled in The New York Times.
Kirschenbaum’s research asks questions such as: 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, drawn from the speaker’s forthcoming book on the subject, 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 thinktank for the digital humanities).
King’s “Word Processor of the Gods” was an amusing read. It’s a bit dated (1983) but still holds captures what we all probably thought when our fingers touched keyboards… that the word processor could be construed as a magic machine with the abilities to delete or change our personal histories.
I suppose King having the perspective of an author/writer, was hypothesizing that with the arrival of the word processor, text is made extremely pliable (movable type) and that transformed the way people write/think (similar to Derrida’s pen vs machine). I think that with each communication method we adopt or adapt to the technology (be it a chisel, plume, chalk, pen, tablet) and they also change the ways which we interact.
What I found interesting about Kirschenbaum”s article “The Book-Writing Machine” (aside from the window being removed and the weight of the computer) was the absurd amount of coincidences that overlapped with Len Deighton’s novel Bomber and the MTST. It seems like Kismet when Len Deighton was told about IBM’s MTST and that he used it to write his novel, Bomber, . Was it happenstance that his assistant, Ellenor Handley would be complaining to a typewriter technician, further that the technician was aware of the latest “machine” that could possible aid her in writing or rather rewriting, makes you wonder about what we lose when we rely solely on computer mediated communication, here we see how ideas were shared face-to-face, a solution was produced. Social media/collaboration back in the 70’s.
I read more on MTST, apparently Jim Henson was requested by IBM to produce a PR film “Paper Explosion” extolling the benefits of MTST: ( and now completely off track…the man at the end film looks like the inspiration for Henson’s muppets Statler and Waldorf (stage left balcony box)
and that Deighton was the first novel to be written via word processed….
I did a quick search and found an article from 2007 (ancient) that states “In Japan, half of the top ten selling works of fiction in the first six months of 2007 were composed on mobile phones.”