Introduction: Obsolescence

  • “My argument in The Anxiety of Obsolescence is, rather, that claims about the obsolescence of cultural forms often say more about those doing the claiming than they do about the object of the claim. In fact, agonized claims of the death of technologies like print and genres like the novel sometimes fuction to re-create an elite cadre of cultural producers and consumers, ostensibly operating on the margins of contemporary culture and profiting from their claims of marginality by creating a sense that their values, once part of a utopian mainstream and now apparently waning, must be protected.” (1–2)
  • Like Chun, the “undead” just as if not more evocative than the “dead”: “The relationship b/t the zombie status of the scholarly book and the perilous state of the profession isn’t causal, but nor is it unrelated, and until we develop the individual and institutional will to transform our ways of communicating, we’re unlikely to be able to transform our broader ways of working.” (5).
  • Point in fact, the shift to the digital will not save us. (Digital is of course just as if not more obsolescent than print.) But persistences are “unexpected,” “persistent ephemeralities” (again track Chun’s “enduring ephemerality”) (6–7).
  • I take the largest shift KF’s asking us to countenance is that peer review is a broken enterprise. Delivery formats for text are sort of irrelevant, in my view: but the challenge to peer review is what cuts to the heart of the need for an embrace of digital textualities (11).
  • “In the end, what I am arguing is that we in the humanities, and in the academy more broadly, face what is less a material obsolescence than an institutional one; we are entrenched in systems that no longer serve our needs” (13).

Chapter 3: Texts

  • “I’m interested in a more communicative sense of interaction across texts . . .” (90). Less concerned with multimodality (hear hear) and more with a multiplication of the sites of textuality.
  • Moving from the document (the static file that’s meant to remediate paper in some way); through hypertext (the link); through the database (cf Folsom and McGann); and then through to her experiments with CommentPress.
  • The decision to design Zork and Adventure within virtualizable environments has boded better for their persistence in computing architecture than later texts like Afternoon, which are becoming all but un-run-able (99).