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Reading Writing Interfaces

From the Digital to the Bookbound

2014

Lori Emerson

Reading Writing Interfaces

Uncovers a lineage of writers and thinkers who have rebelled against the means of production

In Reading Writing Interfaces, 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.

This is the first book to bridge the fields of media archaeology and literary studies, specifically poetry and poetics. It offers new readings-and sometimes a first reading-of important texts, it performs historical spadework that adds to the existing narratives of how the personal computer has evolved, and it contributes to current critical conversations by making the category of interface central to its explorations of textual materiality.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, author of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

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 Interfaces begins 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.

Reading Writing Interfaces

Lori Emerson is assistant professor of English, as well as the founder and director of the Media Archaeology Lab, at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Reading Writing Interfaces

This is the first book to bridge the fields of media archaeology and literary studies, specifically poetry and poetics. It offers new readings-and sometimes a first reading-of important texts, it performs historical spadework that adds to the existing narratives of how the personal computer has evolved, and it contributes to current critical conversations by making the category of interface central to its explorations of textual materiality.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, author of Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

Emerson’s book is not only fascinating because of the richness of its close-readings or the thought-provoking frictions that it creates between historically, technologically, culturally, ideologically very diverse authors and practices. Its most appealing aspect is the political stance it takes towards its material.

Image (&) Narrative

Reading Writing Interfaces draws our attention back to the materiality of digital languages, reveals the underlying processes of writing, and makes visible the interfaces through which we read/write our world.

The Literary Platform

A useful contribution to the understanding of the digital.

CHOICE

With cogent analyses of both analogue and digital literature, Emerson renders legible the historical and contemporary instantiations of the interface that have been masked from the user by the sleek celebratory language of marketing.

Jacket2

Reading Writing Interfaces

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Opening Closings

1. Indistinguishable from Magic: Invisible Interfaces and Digital Literature as Demystifier
2. From the Philosophy of the Open to the Ideology of the User-Friendly
3. Typewriter Concrete Poetry as Activist Media Poetics
4. The Fascicle as Process and Product

Postscript: The Googlization of Literature
Notes
Index