18.365 Plaintext Tools, with list and wiki

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2004 08:41:39 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 365.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2004 08:31:01 +0000
         From: "Charles Baldwin" <Charles.Baldwin_at_mail.wvu.edu>
         Subject: plaintext project and list

Plaintext Tools

"Our writing tools write our thoughts" - Nietzsche
"Access to tools." - The Whole Earth Catalog

The Plaintext project is concerned with the agency and programming of
writing technologies. Plaintext Tools is a listserv and portal for
writers, artists, and thinkers, with the goal of creating and publishing
original research, providing resources, and fostering community around
the tools and methods of writing technologies. A full description of the
project, as well as info on subscribing to the list, is here:
http://www.as.wvu.edu:8000/clc/projects/plaintext .

Why Plaintext Tools? There is an emerging discourse and contested canon
of digital media writing, art, and theory. There are conferences,
special issues, exhibits, and archives of this work. Yet access and
knowledge about tools is limited. Digital artist and writer Alan
Sondheim points out that most computer users "work on or within graphic
surfaces that are intricately connected to the programming 'beneath';
they have little idea how or why their machines work." Similarly, he
argues, for "thousands of years, writers have [...] taken their tools -
taken writing itself - for granted." There are significant exceptions,
of course, but there is no center or organization for research and
understanding the agency programming of writing technology and artistic
software. At best, there are corporate enterprise or "office" tools that
are worked around and through by writers, artists, and thinkers. Of
course, there are artist-produced tools and add-ons, which maintain a
parasitic relation to the dominant technologies. Legislations like the
TCPA threaten even this relation, shutting off the computer to all but
authorized users. The "proper" use of software is increasingly
materialized in hardware. As a result, there is a dispersed and
itinerant knowledge of how to operate with software, a bricolage or
tactical knowledge of "making do." Our goal is to gather this knowledge,
to create an archive of these techniques, and to project the future of
digital writing, art, and theory, in terms of its agency and programming
at the level of tools.

Towards this end, the listserv offers a discussion space for the

- Work arounds, recipes, anecdotes, kluges, new plugins, etc. for
specific technologies.
- Wish lists, projections, possibilities, etc. for future software and
- Legislative, industry, technical news, etc. relating to relating to
the project
- Announcements, calls for work, job openings, etc. dealing with the

The Plaintext wiki, online starting November 22, will allow users to
add content and create links to a growing web version of the list

Questions about the project or listserv can be directed to
Received on Fri Nov 19 2004 - 03:50:04 EST

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