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Digital Shift

Digital Shift: The Cultural Logic of Punctuation

Jeff Scheible
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Digital Shift
    Book Description:

    Emoticons matter. Equal signs do, too. This book takes them seriously and shows how and why they matter.Digital Shiftexplores the increasingly ubiquitous presence of punctuation and typographical marks in our lives⎯using them as reading lenses to consider a broad range of textual objects and practices across the digital age.

    Jeff Scheible argues that pronounced shifts in textual practices have occurred with the growing overlap of crucial spheres of language and visual culture, that is, as screen technologies have proliferated and come to form the interface of our everyday existence. Specifically, he demonstrates that punctuation and typographical marks have provided us with a rare opportunity to harness these shifts and make sense of our new media environments. He does so through key films and media phenomena of the twenty-first century, from the popular and familiar to the avant-garde and the obscure: the mass profile-picture change on Facebook to equal signs (by 2.7 million users on a single day in 2013, signaling support for gay marriage); the widely viewed hashtag skit in Jimmy Fallon'sLate Nightshow; Spike Jonze'sAdaptation; Miranda July'sMe and You and Everyone We Know; Ryan Trecartin'sComma Boat; and more.

    Extending the dialogue about media and culture in the digital age in original directions,Digital Shiftis a uniquely cross-disciplinary work that reveals the impact of punctuation on the politics of visual culture and everyday life in the digital age.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4436-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Textual Shift and the Cultural Logic of Punctuation
    (pp. 1-40)

    Every day in 2013, over a million Facebook users in the United States updated their profile pictures. On March 26, 2013, however, 2.7 million (120 percent) more users than usual changed them. The overwhelming majority of the new images that accounted for this spike were variations of the same basic design: a pink equal sign on a red backdrop. This trend was due to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC’s) newly colored logo (now red and pink rather than their previous blue-and-yellow equal sign) to support marriage equality for homosexual Americans in the context of the Supreme Court’s hearing cases that...

  5. 1 Connecting the Dots: Periodizing the Digital
    (pp. 41-72)

    The most elemental of punctuation marks, the period gets its own place on the QWERTY keyboard, just to the right of the M and the comma keys. In the original design for this layout, the period was supposed to be housed where the R currently resides. But it was then moved so that all the letters of TYPEWRITER could be found along the top row. Economist Paul A. David explains,

    In March 1873, Densmore succeeded in placing the manufacturing rights for the substantially transformed Sholes-Glidden “Type Writer” with E. Remington and Sons, the famous arms makers. Within the next few...

  6. 2 Within, Aside, and Too Much: On Parentheticality across Media
    (pp. 73-102)

    The previous chapter delineates the period’s ubiquity across the visual culture of digital media, arguing that it serves as a periodizing tool for digital culture in general but that its shifting roles also serve as periodizing tools for specific phases of the Internet’s history. This chapter similarly takes a single punctuation mark, the parenthesis, as a reading lens to think through the broader textual shift associated with the emergence of digital media and its visual culture. As we will see, the parenthesis presents continuities that bolster the book’s broader inquiry into the cultural logic of punctuation in the computer age....

  7. 3 # Logic
    (pp. 103-134)

    The preceding chapter marks a transitional parenthesis in this book’s larger account of textual shift, with the parenthesis’s grammatical, symmetrical, and in-between allure. Regarding punctuation and digital textuality, too, it is transitional within this book’s flow. Unlike the period examined before it, the parenthesis relies on the computer’s shift key for its inscription. In this chapter I turn our attention to a character that relies on the shift key as well but that, unlike the period and the parenthesis, is less strictly a punctuation mark in the conventional sense, though some historical accounts in this chapter’s purview have explicitly and...

  8. Coda: Canceling the Semiotic Square
    (pp. 135-142)

    The lines that end the preceding chapter were generated when I tried closing the chapter with three consecutive number signs (###), the mark a press release uses to signify the end of the document. The multi-lined graphic Microsoft Word translates them into, like the # signs, also indicates the text has come to a finish. The altered inscription, not what I intended, seems a fitting reminder of how punctuation both signifies on its own and also takes on a command function in digital media contexts — when a specific combination of keys is entered, the computer will turn it into a...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 143-154)
  10. Index
    (pp. 155-162)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-166)