19.342 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 06:50:05 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 342.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Timothy Mason <timothyjpmason_at_gmail.com> (6)
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?

   [2] From: "Espen S. Ore" <espen.ore_at_nb.no> (34)
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?

   [3] From: Matt Kirschenbaum <mkirschenbaum_at_gmail.com> (16)
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?

   [4] From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu> (23)
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?

         Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 06:42:03 +0100
         From: Timothy Mason <timothyjpmason_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 19.337 contemplation and computing

Willard, there is a programme that primary-school teachers use which
follows and reconstructs the way the pupils create a text. The
pedagogue can then follow the exact trail that the infant has taken
in writing it. I must admit that when I first encountered this
utility, it made me very thoughtful.

Timothy Mason

         Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 06:43:05 +0100
         From: "Espen S. Ore" <espen.ore_at_nb.no>
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?

Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) skrev 13.10.2005 08:19:
>A colleague offline to Humanist has forwarded me a question about the
>impact of wordprocessing on authorial studies, i.e.
>"whether email [is] cutting down collections of writers' letters.
>(The old effect-of-the-telephone-question). Well, not if they're
>saved, but I'm thinking of broader issues. Word-processing revision
>before saving can be lost; if saved, however much subsequently
>superseded, (.wbk) files can be retrieved until they fall off the end
>of the hard disk ie a technician can recover them. Are any writers
>backing up subsequently succeeded saved versions? Are they being
>encouraged to? (Many universities keep daily backups for you.) Are
>any research libraries asking for writers' hard disks?....

The National Library of Norway has as one of its aims collecting
manuscripts from what is considered important Norwegian authors. In
2001 there was a meeting/seminar at the NL where some living authors
handed over manuscript material - some of it on floppy-disks. The
deeper problems - what is kept for genetic study of texts etc. was
not really discussed, but is indeed important.

One modern author where some drafts etc. have been extracted from a
harddisk after the author's death, is Douglas Adams:


In fact there has also (it seems) been some unintended excavation of
Adams' files:


The meeting at the NL in Oslo, is documented in a small article in
the annual report from 2001 (in Norwegian only):


In the same annual report there is also a report from the project
Paradigma where the aim is to harvest *all* Norwegian webpages. This
will of course also include some mailing-list material where that is
available via the web.

Espen Ore
National Library of Norway, Oslo

         Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 06:43:57 +0100
         From: Matt Kirschenbaum <mkirschenbaum_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?


A response I wrote to the original NY Times piece about writers and
their "lost" email:


And a call for participation for a project that will use Subversion to
archive drafts of literary work in progress:



Matthew Kirschenbaum
Assistant Professor of English
Acting Associate Director,
Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH)
301-405-8505 or 301-314-7111 (fax)
         Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 06:45:11 +0100
         From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu>
         Subject: Re: 19.338 wordprocessing, foul papers, genetic study?
A group of my digital archives students has worked/is working with
Michael Joyce's collection that is being accessioned by the Harry
Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. They
will be publishing a paper on the process in the spring, in which
they detail the digital archaeology process of recovering Mac files
of many versions of (e.g.) Afternoon from old floppies, as well as
preserving file-system structures, original file names, and detailed
metadata on software versions used to create the files; we even
persuaded the Center to retain the old floppies with their palimpsest
labels, even if they become unreadable, simply because they reinforce
the authenticity of the files themselves and provide evidence of
authorial practice too. More recently the Center has received a DVD
from Joyce that is a mirror of a hard drive as well, so the work
continues. As a literature specialist I am interested in this side of
the archival task, and we expect to work with the Ransom Center on
other collections with other problems going forward. A lot of this is
going to depend on authorial practice, but as you probably know the
Ransom Center is interested especially in the creative process, so we
are investigating ways to recover as much of the authorial
environment as possible. Remembering that even in paper, people like
Eudora Welty chose to destroy everything.
Pat Galloway
Received on Fri Oct 14 2005 - 01:58:10 EDT

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