Bitstreams: Locating the Literary in the Media Archive

Thursday, February 4, 3:30-4:45 pm
Williams Building 013 (English Common Room, basement level)

Bitstreams: Locating the Literary in the Media Archive

Please join us for the third meeting of the Digital Scholars reading and discussion group for Spring 2016, featuring Matthew Kirschenbaum, Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) as well as teaching faculty at UVa’s Rare Book School, who will talk with us via videoconference about crossing over domains in digital work. While Kirschenbaum’s work ranges from looking materially at writing practices to looking historically at our media mindsets, this particular presentation will examine the condition of both the contemporary archive and what we construct as “the literary.”

Fundamentally, a “bitstream” acts as a conduit — a communication channel for bits or units of information that express coordinates in terms of binary relationships. For Kirschenbaum, however, the more interesting critical information carried by a bitstream is expressed in its physical inscription that, in turn, points to the multiple heritages characterizing a single data form. In many of his publications and through much of his blogging, Kirschenbaum argues persuasively for the need to consider digital forensics on archival documents as a vital preservation practice. In this presentation, however, he may ask us to make a reciprocal move by reading more from the data themselves. In light of emerging critical discourses around media archaeology, as well as practical techniques for preserving, accessing, and analyzing legacy data and obsolescent media formats, the reciprocal conversation may be overdue.

Participants are encouraged to read the following in advance:

  • Wolfgang Ernst. “Media Archaeography.” In Digital Memory and the Archive (ed. Jussi Parikka). U Minnesota P, 2013. 55-73. E-book link [stable copy in Bb org site]
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. “The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory.” Critical Inquiry 35 (Autumn 2008): 148-71. Electronic access [stable copy in Bb org site]

And to browse:

We hope you can join us,



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