October 2009

“The Future of Graduate Education.” Panel on the Future of Graduate Education. Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, University of California, Santa Barbara. 29 October 2009.

Citation: “Thinking Destruction: Creativity, Rational Choice, Emergence, and Destruction Theory.” Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, 1.1 (October 15, 2009). <http://occasion.stanford.edu/node/24>

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Citation: “A New Metaphor for Reading.” Invited contribution to “Room for Debate” forum on “Does the Brain Like E-Books?” New York Times, 14 October 2009. http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/does-the-brain-like-e-books/


Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention. This was true as early as the invention of writing, which Plato complained hollowed out focal memory. Similarly, William Wordsworth’s sister complained that he wasted his mind in the newspapers of the day. It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader, as historians of the book like to say, but in the social systems that complete the reading environment.

Right now, networked digital media do a poor job of balancing focal and peripheral attention. We swing between two kinds of bad reading.

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“Literature and Data.” Theory and New Media Studies Colloquium. Yale University. 7 October 2009.

Readings for event:
  1. Alan Liu, Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 239-40
  2. Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History (London; New York: Verso, 2005), pp. 1-33, 91-92
  3. Alan Liu, “Digital Humanities and Academic Change,” English Language Notes 47.1 (Spring/Summer 2009): 17-35

Notes & Links for event

“Friending the Past: The Sense of History and Social Computing.” Yale University. 6 October 2009.