As I’ve been finishing off the manuscript for my book The Shakespearean Archive: Experiments in New Media from the Renaissance to Postmodernity, I’ve been realizing that a spin-off project could explore the new media demo as an emergent performance genre with a cultural history of its own. This should be a familiar genre thanks in part to Steve Jobs’s sense of theatricality in his Apple rollout presentations, which serve as a kind of technology theatre. Another famous tech demo from the era of modern computing is Douglas Englebart’s so-called “Mother of All Demos,” which gave the world its first look at now-commonplace features like a windowed GUI, a computer mouse and pointer, word processing, hypertext, real-time collaborative document editing (think GoogleDocs), and teleconferencing — and this was in 1968 (!!). (There’s plenty of surviving video of this particular demo, which is worth a look.) Considering this kind of event as a cultural and social phenomenon — and as a performance susceptible to critical interpretation — is something I often do with my students, and someday I’d like to teach a course on the cultural history of the tech demo at U Toronto’s iSchool. Continue reading
From cave sketch drawings, to fountain pens with ink wells, to writing with a pencil to a pen, to typewriters, to printing materials, to using computer typesetting, we’ve moved from an oral society, to a written one, to a digital one.
From the late 19th century to the 1970s, Linotype was the industry standard for typesetting and printing newspapers, magazines and posters. Now, the publishing industry uses offset lithography printing.
The Linotype type casting machine was called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ by light bulb inventor, Thomas Edison. The Linotype revolutionized printing and society. To celebrate what the machine allowed us to do, the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto is pleased to present the Canadian premiere of Linotype: The Film, a feature-length documentary centered around the charming and emotional story of the people connected to the Linotype and how it impacted the world. Already, premieres from around the world have been sold out. Continue reading
Last week I met Fiona at Manic Coffee, where I learned many fascinating things from her about Victorian photography and the evolution of trust in reproduced images. (She had been giving me some really knowledgeable and generous feedback on one of my book chapters — I recommend we all besiege her with similar requests, all at once…) One of the things she mentioned was Thomas Hardy’s lesser-known novel A Laodicean (1881), which apparently contains textual hijinks such as the touching-up of photographs, the faking of telegrams, and conflations of different Shakespeare plays in the same performance as a ploy to cover sexual transgression. (!!!) Encouraged by all this absurdly useful material for my book chapter, we set off to check a couple of used bookstores down College Street, but couldn’t find a copy. (Though I did find a copy of Tesla’s autobiography, which should be good for some even stranger posts down the road. Btw, I mean this Tesla, not that one, though neither really got the credit they deserved…). Anyway, this afternoon I looked at some early editions of A Laodicean in the U of T’s Fisher Rare Book Library, including a triple-decker published in London in 1881, the year of the novel’s publication, and a single-volume illustrated American edition from the same year. I suspected the American edition might have been one of the many piracies of British novels that would happen nearly simultaneously across the Atlantic, especially with well-known novelists like Hardy. Being a lazy non-Victorianist book historian — who leaves actual reading to his smarter literary friends, and then mooches research ideas off them — I flipped through the volumes looking for illustrations as my entry-points into the text, and as potential material to discuss in my book chapter. The London triple-decker contained no illustrations, but the American single volume contained several, one of which you can see below. However, I really don’t know anything about Hardy’s publication history or the textual history of this particular novel, which I haven’t even read. Continue reading
I’ve been noticing a persistent, sustained interest in steampunk in the various mainstream outlets of geek culture (a phrase I use with affection) such as the Gawker blog io9. (For example: http://io9.com/5917187/gorgeous-portraits-of-steampunks-jetpack+wearing-superwomen) We could probably list dozens of examples of steampunkery in popular culture, from video games to movies to prog-rock concept albums and so on if we wanted to. I have a different question, though — one I’m asking as a fan and marginal practitioner of Victorian studies rather than someone trained and based in it. Has there been much substantial work on steampunk from within Victorian studies, as distinct from fields who study science fiction in the present? Is steampunk something that matters, or should matter, in Victorian studies these days, or has it run its course — and if so, what was that course? Continue reading
Gregory’s last post on Babbage and railroads, illustrated by that arresting Montparnasse train wreck photo, got me thinking about Victorian visual technologies and their ability to register accidents as phenomena. At the same time, Daniel’s analogy between aircraft data recorders (black boxes), on the one hand, and Babbage’s proposal for their 19th-century railroad equivalents, on the other, got me thinking, too, about technologies with unexpected histories. We know that 19th century technologies like film and photography changed how people thought about time and experience, but there’s also something about 19th century technologies that makes them seem, themselves, prone to accidents of chronology. The conspiracy-theory subgenre of pseudoarcheological “out-of-place artifacts” seems like good fodder for the kind of alt-history thinking that Victorian studies has absorbed from steampunk. Continue reading
As my first test-post, I thought I’d pass along a recent exchange on the Humanist email list. This doesn’t fall squarely within Victorian studies exactly, but it does play on some familiar Victorian themes like machine anxiety and the boundaries of automation. Note that although the given date of the first post is March 31st, it first showed up in mailboxes on April 1st… Continue reading