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Ex-foliations

Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path

2008
Author:

Terry Harpold

Ex-foliations

A sophisticated consideration of technologies of reading in the digital age

Terry Harpold investigates paradoxes of reading’s backward glances in the theory and literature of the digital field. In analyses of Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, and in readings of hypertext fictions by Michael Joyce and Shelley Jackson, Harpold asserts that we should return to these landmarks of new media scholarship with attention on questions of media obsolescence, changing user interface designs, and the mutability of reading.

Ex-foliations stands out among other books on new media textuality through its attention to the visual aspects of digital texts (their interface), its informed discussion of the prehistory of hypertext, and its presentation and analysis of rare and very interesting documents. No other book gives a better sense of the hidden machines that perform digital text and of the dependency of the reading experience upon their features.

Marie-Laure Ryan

“Every reading is, strictly speaking, unrepeatable; something in it, of it, will vary. Recollections of reading accumulate in relation to this iterable specificity; each takes its predecessors as its foundation, each inflects them with its backward-looking futurity.” In Ex-foliations, Terry Harpold investigates paradoxes of reading’s backward glances in the theory and literature of the digital field.

In original analyses of Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, and in innovative readings of early hypertext fictions by Michael Joyce and Shelley Jackson, Harpold asserts that we should return to these landmarks of new media scholarship with newly focused attention on questions of media obsolescence, changing user interface designs, and the mutability of reading.

In these reading machines, Harpold proposes, we may detect traits of an unreadable surface—the real limit of the machines’ operations and of the reader’s memories—on which text and image are projected in the late age of print.

Ex-foliations

Terry Harpold is associate professor of English, film, and media studies at the University of Florida.

Ex-foliations

Ex-foliations stands out among other books on new media textuality through its attention to the visual aspects of digital texts (their interface), its informed discussion of the prehistory of hypertext, and its presentation and analysis of rare and very interesting documents. No other book gives a better sense of the hidden machines that perform digital text and of the dependency of the reading experience upon their features.

Marie-Laure Ryan

Harpold’s book provides a useful and interesting argument which can aid us greatly in developing a better understanding of textuality in the new media ecology.

Culture Machine

Terry Harpold’s book is in itself a demonstration of one of the messages in this ground-breaking work on the digitization of literature. As he very convincingly argues, it is now time to study the electronic text as a form of visual reading and writing, and in this shift the necessity of folding the e-text back to previous forms of print culture in inescapable.

Image & Narrative

Ex-foliations is a rich compendium that situates current reading practices with a long historical continuum.

American Literature