Alan Liu is Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an affiliated faculty member of UCSB’s Media Arts & Technology graduate program. Previously, he was on the faculty of Yale University’s English Department and British Studies Program.
He began his research in the field of British romantic literature and art. His first book, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford Univ. Press, 1989), explored the relation between the imaginative experiences of literature and history. In a series of theoretical essays in the 1990s, he explored cultural criticism, the “new historicism,” and postmodernism in contemporary literary studies. In 1994, when he started his Voice of the Shuttle Web site for humanities research, he began What is the relation between the seductions of literature and of information?to study information culture as a way to close the circuit between the literary or historical imagination and the technological imagination. In 2004, he published his The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (Univ. of Chicago Press). In 2008, he also published from Univ. of Chicago Press his Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database.
Liu founded the NEH-funded Teaching with Technology project at UC Santa Barbara called Transcriptions: Literature and the Culture of Information and his English Dept’s undergraduate specialization on Literature and the Culture of Information. During 2002-2007 he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) and chair of the Technology/Software Committee of the ELO’s PAD Initiative (Preservation / Archiving / Dissemination of Electronic Literature).
Digital initiatives he has recently led include Transliteracies: Research in the Technological, Social, and Cultural Practices of Online Reading, a University of California multi-campus, collaborative research group (2005-10); and RoSE (Research-oriented Social Environment), a software project funded by a NEH Digital Humanities Start-up grant (2011-12) that is the culmination of Transliteracies. He is also co-founder and -leader of the international 4Humanities advocacy initiative as well as 4Humanities@UCSB (the UCSB 4Humanities local chapter formed as an Interdisciplinary Humanities Center Research Focus Group).
Liu is currently working on books about the digital humanities and the relationship between media and history.
After serving as Chair of his department during 2008-12, he was on leave in 2012-13 with an ACLS fellowship and short-term fellowships at the National Humanities Center and the Australian National University Humanities Research Centre.