Gitelman 2014

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Gitelman, Lisa. Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.

Michael de Certeau -- "scriptural economy"

"totality of writers, writings, and writing techniques that began to expand so precipitously in the nineteenth century" (x)

Paper Knowledge

"Documents are epistemic ob- jects; they are the recognizable sites and subjects of interpretation across the disciplines and beyond, evidential structures in the long human history of clues." (1)

know-show function: knowing wrapped up with showing, showing wrapped up with knowing

genre: "a mode of recognition instantiated in discourse" (2)

"Documents be- long to that ubiquitous subcategory of texts that embraces the subjects and instruments of bureaucracy or of systematic knowledge generally." (5)

similar to Latour, "inscriptions"

"Thinking about documents helps in particular to adjust the focus of media studies away from grand catchall categories like “manuscript” and “print” and toward an embarrassment of material forms that have together sup- ported such a varied and evolving scriptural economy." (6)
"Like Jonathan Sterne’s recent book on a particular format (the mP3) or Bonnie Mak’s recent book on a particular interface (the page), my focus on a particular genre works to decenter the media concept precisely in order to evolve a better, richer media studies." (6)

pushing toward digital but never fully reaching it

"A second, related argument advanced here is that the broad categories that have become proper to the history of communication and that increasingly have a bearing on popular discourse are insufficient and perhaps even hazardous to our thinking." (7)

discouraging use of term "print culture" (7)

printer used to refer to the person doing the printing; now printer is the machine that prints (8)

"print culture and the cultural meanings of printedness risk chasing each other, cart and horse, explanation and explanandum, like modernization and modernity." (9)
"Better instead to resist any but local and contrastive logics for media; better to look for meanings that arise, shift, and persist according to the uses that media—emergent, dominant, and residual—familiarly have.42 Better, indeed, to admit that no medium has a single, particular logic, while every genre does and is. The project of this book is to explore media history further, not just by juxta- posing one medium with another but also by working a selective history of one especially capacious genre—the document—across different media." (9)
"Considered as an admittedly heterogeneous class, telegram blanks, account book headings, menus, meal tickets, stock certificates, and the welter of other documentary forms that issued in such profusion from jobbing houses in the nineteenth century suggest a corrective addition to—or perhaps an additional negation of—the histories of authorship, reading, and publishing." (11)
"In their sheer diversity and multiplicity, documents originating with job printers point toward a period of intense social differentiation, as Ameri- cans became subject to a panoply (or, rather, a pan-opoly) of institutions large and small, inspiring a prolific babble of corporate speech. " (12)

on method:

" The brief chronological windows and the jumps between them represent both a more calculated methodology and a stra- tegic appreciation of media archeological perspectives that have been so productive—and so fashionable—in recent scholarship.68 I have aimed to make each episode exacting in its detail while also reaping the benefits of its contrastive separation from the other episodes. A contrivance, per- haps, yet one that productively displaces to the level of method the breaks or ruptures in media historical narration that must forever warrant our concerted critical attention: every supposedly new medium is only ever partly so. Being self-conscious about the ways that historical narratives work is essential to media studies, especially because of the reflexive bur- dens of studying documents by means of documents, for instance, or of understanding media from within an always already mediated realm." (19)

A Short History of ______

blank books -- mobility of subjects, identities, ideas, bodies, but also stasis and inertia

"These blank books were meta-microgenres, one might say, documents establishing the parameters or the rules for entries to be made individually in pencil or ink. Rules, like habits, were broken, of course—as notebooks became scrap- books, for instance, or as ledgers became the illustrated chronicles of in- digenous tribes—but rules there were; that is what made one class of blank book distinguishable from another." (22-3)

job printing as "the site of surplus meanings otherwise left out by the history of communication as well as by “print culture studies” or “the history of the book.”" (25)

  • 1/3 of printing work was job printing -- but left out of history of book/print
"nineteenth-century job printing and its fillable blanks offer a glimpse of an extended history of information, presenting one context (certainly among many) for the supposed distinction between form and content—for the imagination of data as such—on which con- temporary experiences of information technology so intuitively rely." (26)

nominal blanks in 18c fiction

job printing as representing the centripetal and centrifugal forces of 19c American life -- being pulled together into a community through print or pushed away from each other (30)

"Job-printed forms didn’t have readers, then; they had users instead. Users have subjectivities too, without question, but they are not exactly readerly ones." (31)

Baker v Selden and the "idea-expression dichotomy" (34) -- "Ideas are free to all; a copyright protects not the ideas, but the way they are expressed."

job printers like locksmiths; trust them within a system of exchange (48)

"More clearly than other forms of printing, preprinted blank forms help triangulate the modern self in relation to au- thority: the authority of printedness, on the one hand, and the authority of specific social subsystems and bureaucracies on the other hand." (49)
" Job printing in general and blank forms in particular offer a glimpse into the incidental, everyday occasions on which the authority of printedness was and is con- tinuously and simultaneously produced, deployed, tested, reconfigured, and reaffirmed in reflexive relation to the competing and imperfect structures of social differentiation—the credit economy, civil procedure, municipal governance, medical practice, institutionalized education, voluntary asso- ciation, and so on. Those evolving structures, one must imagine, work as so many loose and chaotic cross-stitches over and against the public sphere, helping to tack it together even as they also potentially worry it apart." (49)

19c writers struggling with need for printer as intermediary (50)

rise of amateur printers using small platen presses to make their own business cards, etc

The Typescript Book

Robert Binkley, historian -- worried about preservation of cultural heritage

offers deeper history of digital humanities by examining Binkley's work and a moment of upheaval for the humanities (1930s)

crisis of documents being lost -- ephemera not being saved in any standardized way; printed on cheap and easily-destructible paper

crisis of publishing -- scholarly monographs having increasingly narrow readerships; how to recoup the costs of publishing?

bound up in issue of reproduction; reproducing materials gives access, access produces new knowledge (60)

focus on reproduction over representation enables sidestepping issues about objectivity or relativism (62) -- "strategic disinterest" in what Benjamin calls "aura" (63); focus on having access to content of documents

Binkley's Typescript Book (1936) -- collects examples of different reproduction processes; "typescript" and "electronic" both talk about form in terms of process (67-8)

"Where the typescript book is concerned, typescript is weirdly more a genre than it is a format or medium." (68)
"the typescript book of Binkley’s day was a contradiction in terms, because books were published but typescripts were internal or unpublished, even if somehow public. The internality of typescripts—if I can call it that—both resulted in and resulted from their relative informality." (68)

changing attitudes toward what typescript signals

typescript associated with manuscript -- more direct relationship to process of production than printed page

"What Binkley dreamed of were not just “new tools” for men and women of letters, but whole new patterns of scholarly communication that developments like xerography—the subject of my next chapter—and net- worked personal computers have helped make possible in the decades since Binkley’s day: e-mail, listservs, blogs, wikis, and so on. " (70-71)
"Like the web browsers (client applications) of today, microfilm read- ing devices were the local display mechanisms used to view images from afar, as positive prints were pushed out from centralized repositories" (72)
"The genie of the printers’ monopoly came out of its bottle in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the bottle itself was broken by the mid- 1930s. It would continue to shatter into smaller pieces as newer new media were deployed and documents became ever more materially diverse." (82)

Xerographers of the Mind

"Today the idea of the photocopy has been corrupted by our intu- itive knowledge of things digital, as well as muddied by the confusing pro- liferation and convergence of digital technologies: the copier down the hall now also prints, scans, faxes, sorts, and staples. As a methodological workaround, then, and as a way of getting a clearer look at the early xero- graphic era, this chapter address itself to famous photocopies: the Pen- tagon Papers, copied in 1969 by Daniel Ellsberg and leaked to the New York Times in 1971; and a few less widely known examples from the 1970s, among them John Lions’s “Commentary on the Sixth Edition UNIX Operating System,” called by programmers “the most photocopied docu- ment in computer science.”" (84)
"As the case of Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers suggests, xerography must be understood specifically within the cultural politics of the Cold War. And as the case of Lions and his commentary on UNIX demonstrates, the idea of the photocopy would ultimately help shape the digital knowledge prac- tices that would eventually render it paradoxically so ubiquitous, trans- parent, and naturalized and at the same time so complicated and obscure." (85)

Pentagon Papers: multiple papers brought together for internal use; Ellsberg split them up, disaggregated, and photocopied them (86)

government work; no authors given on this collaborative labor, by design

Ellsberg charged with theft -- barely any mention of the fact that the "documents" stolen are photocopies of originals (88)

Ellsberg edited the documents by cutting "TOP SECRET" off the top, then created a cardboard frisket for copying

rapid growth of photocopying in and around Harvard Square, as students copied Harvard library books and articles from journals

"In the 1930s documentary reproduction had meant access; now it meant archive." (92) -- "a new crisis in information management loomed" (93)

documents circulating endlessly, everyone keeping a copy of even ephemeral/mundane objects -- "Though according to Max Weber mod- ern bureaucracy assiduously separates home from office, and business from private correspondence,34 the xerographic medium was helping to person- alize files. Filing, like reading, was become a means of self-possession." (93)

"“Living” for a document, then, is not a technological condition as much as a social one. Like open-source software, living documents exist as shared objects of revision, though they can just as easily be shared via cor- porate management systems as by an open democratic process. Software documentation—like software itself—has lived and lives in many settings." (101)
"in addition to reproducing documents, xerography both identifies and creates them. Xeroxing became a way—part of a whole repertoire of ways, really—of seeing documents as documents. That is, it was and re- mains a way of reading. " (102)
"To Xerox something, in short, is to read it as a document. The medium and the genre are fully entangled." (102)

Xerox-lore; Dundes and Pagter collection of cartoons and jokes that circulated in office spaces in the second half of 20c -- constituting own genre that mocks/plays with document as genre and generates opportunities to resist bureaucratic structures

"If the relative ease of photocopying aided in the unprecedented proliferation of documents, that proliferation itself aided in and called attention to versioning, helping emphasize and enable documents as potentially “living” sites for continued and collective interpretation and revision, both fluid and fixed, on and as paper. Though typing and typescripts remained ubiquitous, episodes from the early history of xerography show how entwined photocopies and digi- tal documents were from the very first." (110)

Near Print and Beyond Paper: Knowing by *.pdf

"Whatever else they are, digital and (even more so) digitized documents appear as pictures of themselves. " (114)

PDFs -- "specific 'remedial' point of contact between old media and new" (115)

if e-readers are designed around genre of the novel, PDFs are designed around genre of the document (115)

"PDF technology imagines its users—that certain uses and conditions have been built in to the technology—at the same time that actual users continue to imagine and reimagine what PDF files are for, how and where they work, and thus what they mean. Only by taking account of these intersecting imaginar- ies can we understand the specificities of this digitally mediated format or, indeed, of any technology." (117-8)

fixed appearance across all screens and printers is main feature defining a PDF

easy to send ASCII text/info/data across networks, but fax machines better at sending documents across distances

Adobe hand cursor and displacement of labor

"The Acrobat Reader interface, like any interface, works to manage a user’s attention—here focus, there ne- glect—in dynamic distribution across cognitive and bodily functions that are at once perceptual, haptic, ergonomic, and—at least metaphorically— digestive." (130)
"PDFs and PDF-reader applications are designed to insulate reading from authoring." (131)
" PDF page images inhabit the text-image distinction as texts, not as images, because all PDFs are potentially searchable. " (134)

Amateurs Rush In

"amateurdom" -- rise of amateur printing after introduction of platen press, breaking of printer's monopoly

"Amateurdom arose not in the commonality of choosing and buying, but rather in the collective imagi- nation of itself as a sphere of productive communication, an imaginary domain for what observers of later zines have called “cooperative individu- ality” and healthy “intersubjectivity.”" (141)

brief history of amateur publishing from mid-19c through mid-20c that emphasizes: DIY of one age is not the DIY of another; laced with cultural associations that are always in flux

"Rather than take the self-chronicling of amateurs and fans entirely at face value, I have tried instead to gesture more broadly toward the scrip- tural economy, its trajectory of engagement with consumer culture, and, in particular, its late nineteenth-century expansion in the service of mana- gerial capital. That framing I hope helps reveal some of the selectivity, if not the shortcomings, of any dichotomy like mainstream versus subcul- ture—or, better put, any schematic that might simply contrast public and counterpublic." (148)
"Amateurdom and fandom by these lights are less counterpublics than they are counterinstitutions, loosely self-organizing assemblages—of mem- bers, mail, media, and lore—that defy institutionalization partly by repro- ducing it cacophonously in an adolescent key. Later zine scenes and “alt” arenas differ from the “doms” of amateurdom and fandom, no doubt, yet they too might be studied not just for how they contrast with commercial publication but also for the ways in which that contrast tends to obscure other things, including the forever expanding and baroquely structured dominion of the document." (149-150)