Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

By Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

The tale of writing within the electronic age is each piece as messy because the ink-stained rags that littered the ground of Gutenberg's print store or the recent molten lead of the Linotype laptop. through the interval of the pivotal development and common adoption of note processing as a writing know-how, a few authors embraced it as a wonder whereas others decried it because the demise of literature. The made from years of archival learn and diverse interviews carried out via the writer, music adjustments is the 1st literary historical past of notice processing.Matthew Kirschenbaum examines how the pursuits and beliefs of artistic authorship got here to coexist with the pc revolution. Who have been the 1st adopters? what sort of anxieties did they proportion? was once notice processing perceived as only a larger typewriter or anything extra? How did it swap our figuring out of writing? tune adjustments balances the tales of person writers with a attention of the way the doubtless ineffable act of writing is usually grounded particularly tools and media, from quills to keyboards. alongside the best way, we find the applicants for the 1st novel written on a note processor, discover the unusually various explanation why writers of either renowned and critical literature followed the expertise, hint the unfold of latest metaphors and ideas from observe processing in fiction and poetry, and examine the destiny of literary scholarship and reminiscence in an period while the ultimate remnants of authorship could encompass folders on a difficult force or files within the cloud.

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10 It should be added that Bradley is not just speaking impressionistically here; in editing the posthumous manuscripts for publication (the unfinished second novel that was redacted as Juneteenth and published in its fuller form as Three Days Before the Shooting …), he has made a detailed study of all of Ellison’s manuscript materials, both paper and digital, and written extensively about the patterns of attention and revision he is able to discern from them. Word processing thus means much more than turning a computer into a souped-up typewriter.

It was a leveling moment of sorts, and for me, that realization served to humanize these famous authors. Of course those are not my only motives. Almost from their inception during and after the Second World War, modern digital computers “processed” letters just about as easily as they did numbers. 5 Nonetheless (or better, precisely because of this), the story of writing in the digital age is every bit as messy as the ink-stained rags that would have littered the floor of Gutenberg’s print shop or the hot molten lead of the linotype machine.

Computational text analysis can show us much, but it would take a lot of convincing for me to believe that Martin’s sentence structures (for example) are tied in any significant degree to the specifics of WordStar’s keyboard commands. 17 By the same token, however, knowing that Martin uses WordStar still seems important; it seems like something we probably should know, just as we know the precise make and model of the typewriter Twain once owned, and just as we know details of the design of the tiny table on which Jane Austen did her writing at Chawton Cottage (it was twelve-sided, made of walnut wood, and set on a tripod).

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