Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era
Author: Lisa Gitelman
Publisher: Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999
Review Published: July 2002
Huge thanks to Daniel Gilfillan for such a detailed and careful reading of Scripts, Grooves. It is very gratifying to find the book of interest in cyberculture studies, since so much of what it attends in cyberculture it attends by implication. Such interest coincides, in short, with my own intuitive sense of how vital it is to historicize digital media. Only by plumbing the histories of digital media can we hope to understand their present regime or to shape their potential.
Always historicize. That credo carries with it considerable license -- to make creative connections, to assemble sprawling, variegated genealogies for media -- but it also comes with certain responsibilities. More and more the kinds of histories I like are ones which build exactingly on archival sources to promote a "micro" focus and yet which also locate that focus within or against a "macro" history comparable in scale, say, to Mary Poovey's History of the Modern Fact (Chicago 1998) or Armand Mattelart's Invention of Communication (in English, Minnesota 1996) -- both books I wish I had read as I was sending Scripts, Grooves off to press. Two recent favorites are Alain Corbin's Village Bells (in English, Columbia 1998) and James A. Secord's Victorian Sensation (Chicago 2000), but there are so many more.
In my own work I'm trying to build on Scripts, Grooves and at the same time to be more self-conscious about doing media history. I think that there's an interconnected genealogy of records (phonographic and not) and documents (digital and not) to be written. Such a genealogy would hint toward a "macro" history of modern textuality at the same time that it could help elaborate the reflexivity of inscriptive media as historical subjects, as always already complicated within the history that they help to record and to document.
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