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Reading Writing Interfaces

Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound

Lori Emerson
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Reading Writing Interfaces
    Book Description:

    Lori Emerson examines how interfaces-from today's multitouch devices to yesterday's desktops, from typewriters to Emily Dickinson's self-bound fascicle volumes-mediate between writer and text as well as between writer and reader. Following the threads of experimental writing from the present into the past, she shows how writers have long tested and transgressed technological boundaries.

    Reading the means of production as well as the creative works they produce, Emerson demonstrates that technologies are more than mere tools and that the interface is not a neutral border between writer and machine but is in fact a collaborative creative space.Reading Writing Interfacesbegins with digital literature's defiance of the alleged invisibility of ubiquitous computing and multitouch in the early twenty-first century and then looks back at the ideology of the user-friendly graphical user interface that emerged along with the Apple Macintosh computer of the 1980s. She considers poetic experiments with and against the strictures of the typewriter in the 1960s and 1970s and takes a fresh look at Emily Dickinson's self-printing projects as a challenge to the coherence of the book.

    Through archival research, Emerson offers examples of how literary engagements with screen-based and print-based technologies have transformed reading and writing. She reveals the ways in which writers-from Emily Dickinson to Jason Nelson and Judd Morrissey-work with and against media interfaces to undermine the assumed transparency of conventional literary practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4218-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Opening Closings
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    This book begins and ends with magic—sleights of hand that disguise how closed our devices are by cleverly diverting our attention to seemingly breathtaking technological feats. From the stylized, David Copperfield–inspired Apple launch for the iPad, which is touted as a “truly magical and revolutionary product,” to (as of this writing) the impending launch of Google Glass, which is already being marketed as a device that will provide “answers without having to ask,” we are well into the era of the marvelous. It’s marvelous in the sense of that which is wondrous—for how could we not wonder...

  5. 1 Indistinguishable from Magic: Invisible Interfaces and Digital Literature as Demystifier
    (pp. 1-46)

    If the twenty-first century does not have, as Siegfried Zielinski writes in the chapter epigraph, a craving for media, it is because media, by way of interface, are steadily making their way toward invisibility, imperceptibility, and inoperability. We cannot crave whatever is ubiquitous. As I describe in this section, contemporary claims about ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) as the definitive technological innovation of this century—supposedly, the third wave of computing, which replaces desktop computing and whose devices are seamlessly embedded throughout our everyday environment—consistently tout the invisibility of its interfaces as providing us with a more natural, more direct, inherently...

  6. 2 From the Philosophy of the Open to the Ideology of the User-Friendly
    (pp. 47-86)

    The second cut into the ground of our technological past in this study of reading/writing interfaces is into the era of the GUI-based personal computer that was preceded by Douglas Engelbart, Alan Kay, and Seymour Papert’s experiments with computing and interface design from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. This era began with expandable homebrew kits and irrevocably transformed into so-called user-friendly, closed workstations with the release of the Apple Macintosh in late January 1984.¹ Whereas chapter 1 delves into the computing industry’s present push to take us more deeply into the era of the interface-free, this chapter uncovers an earlier...

  7. 3 Typewriter Concrete Poetry as Activist Media Poetics
    (pp. 87-128)

    The third archaeological cut I make into reading/writing interfaces is the era from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s in which poets, working heavily under the influence of Marshall McLuhan, sought to create (especially, so-called dirty) concrete poetry as a way to experiment with the limits and the possibilities of the typewriter. These poems—particularly, those by the two Canadian writers bpNichol and Steve McCaffery and the English Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houédard—often deliberately court the media noise of the typewriter as a way to draw attention to the typewriter as interface. Further, since these poems are about their...

  8. 4 The Fascicle as Process and Product
    (pp. 129-162)

    Throughout this book I try to produce a friction from reading new media interfaces with, into, and against old media interfaces—a friction that not only troubles the distinction between new and old but also follows in the steps of instances of (activist) media poetics throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that similarly work against the grain of writing interfaces. This chapter positions Emily Dickinson not only as a poet working equally with and against the limits and the possibilities of pen/pencil/paper as interface but also as one through which we can productively read twenty-first-century digital literary texts. My argument...

  9. POSTSCRIPT: The Googlization of Literature
    (pp. 163-184)

    Throughout this book I have attempted to create a friction between new and old writing interfaces while describing the media poetics of writers themselves reading, through writing, writing interfaces. Now that we are all constantly connected to networks, driven by invisible, formidable algorithms, the role of the writer and the nature of writing itself is being significantly transformed. Media poetics is fast becoming a practice not just of experimenting with the limits and the possibilities of writing interfaces but rather ofreadingwriting—the practice of writing through the network, which as it tracks, indexes, and algorithmizes every click and every...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 185-218)
  11. Index
    (pp. 219-222)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-225)