Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

Monday, November 22, 2010 [please note new date]
2:00 – 3:15 pm
Skybox, Williams Building 4th floor conference room

Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

For the next meeting of the Digital Scholars reading group, we will convene to discuss Matt Kirschenbaum’s recent and much-lauded work on writing and textuality in an era of new media. Having won prizes from the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP), and the Society for Textual Scholarship (STS), his book should interest a wide spectrum of constituencies in English, History of Text Technologies, and media studies. (And we welcome everyone else, too.)

Kirschenbaum is an associate professor in the University of Maryland English department as well as the associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. His book Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination explores the “contemporary conditions of electronic textuality and the digital literary” with particular attention to the materiality of the digital realm. As he argues (and as we will discuss):

new media cannot be studied apart from individual instances of inscription, object, and code as they propagate on, across, and through specific storage devices, operating systems, software environments, and network protocols; yet the forensic imagination [is also] a deeply humanistic way of knowing, one that assigns value to time, history, and social or material circumstance—even trauma and wear—as part of our thinking about new media. (23)

We will read the first two sections of the book (Preface, Introduction) which are freely available from the MIT Press, and also accessible on the Digital Scholars Blackboard site.

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One thought on “Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

  1. I really enjoyed this text–I’m definitely going to get my hands on a copy of this. For me, one of the things that distinguishes Kirschenbaum’s text is his focus on the micro, localized scale. I’ve been thinking about “scale” lately, and it seems, then, that we could then potentially place Moretti’s “distant reading” on the opposite end of the spectrum–making observations at the macro, global scale. In either case, they both “count” as “digital humanities.”
    I’ve been wondering then–is the tension between “traditional” humanities and “digital” humanities essentially a problem of scale? Do digital humanities offer up new scales at which to work that are foreign, and thus, troublesome to trad. humanities?
    We talked about mapping earlier in the semester–should digital humanities construct “maps” to help orient us to scales that were once static but are now oscillating?

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