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Digital Shift

The Cultural Logic of Punctuation

2015
Author:

Jeff Scheible

Digital Shift

Examines the punctuation of our digital lives and why it matters

Emoticons matter. Equal signs do, too. This book takes them seriously and shows how and why they matter. Digital Shift explores 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 when writing—and all of culture—is undergoing radical change through the overwhelming adoption of networked and programmable media, it is possible to detect and analyze these changes in the encompassing details, in the cultural logic of punctuation, for example. This book is highly engaging. Scheible’s arguments are compelling and provocative.

John Cayley, Brown University

Emoticons matter. Equal signs do, too. This book takes them seriously and shows how and why they matter. Digital Shift explores 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’s Late Night show; Spike Jonze’s Adaptation; Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know; Ryan Trecartin’s Comma Boat; and more.

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

Awards

Media Ecology Association’s Susanne K. Langer Award

Digital Shift

Jeff Scheible is assistant professor of cinema studies at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Digital Shift

Jeff Scheible argues that when writing—and all of culture—is undergoing radical change through the overwhelming adoption of networked and programmable media, it is possible to detect and analyze these changes in the encompassing details, in the cultural logic of punctuation, for example. This book is highly engaging. Scheible’s arguments are compelling and provocative.

John Cayley, Brown University

Digital Shift proposes a powerful analysis of the major changes that have occurred since the generalization of digital cultures, and it illustrates these changes with the help of three exemplary signs: the period (a traditional sign, but whose function is now changing), the parentheses (an equally classic sign, whose traditionally spare use has been replace by a much more active and diverse use in recent history), and the hashtag (a sign that can be considered radically new, even if as a form it already existed before).

Leonardo Reviews

An engaging read.

Times Higher Education

An accessible and inviting read, the volume invites continued critique and scholarship, and has practical implications for those in the media industry seeking a deeper understanding of the evolving digital lexicon.

CHOICE

This layered, postmodern, critical, cultural, semiotic work aims at nothing less than rethinking and reimagining the scales and scope of humanistic inquiry, and the importance of critical theory, according to one of Scheible’s two stated goals.

Journalism & Mass Communication Journal

Throughout, Scheible’s style is careful, balanced, and thoughtful. . .In this context, punctuation is hardly mundane literacy but is, instead, a provocative site for exploring representational politics, human relations with their machines, and computing culture in day-to-day operations.

New Media and Society

Digital Shift

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Textual Shift and the Cultural Logic of Punctuation
1. Connecting the Dots: Periodizing the Digital
2. Within, Aside, and Too Much: On Parentheticality across Media
3. # Logic
Coda: Canceling the Semiotic Square
Notes
Index

Digital Shift

UMP blog: What do ellipses do for us?

The ellipsis appears to solve a problem posed by the distinct features of communication in the digital age.