N. Katherine Hayles on Postprint

Lumitype 2

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for a talk by Kate Hayles. We’ll be meeting at 6pm on Friday May 4 in the Senate Room at Senate House.

“From Print to Postprint: How Printing Technologies Became Cognitive”

Beginning around 1950, printing technologies began to acquire cognitive capabilities with the invention of the Lumitype typesetter, which included elements of a digital computer. However, this trajectory has a prehistory from the late nineteenth century, when James Paige invented the Paige Compositor, the machine that famously bankrupted Mark Twain. This talk will analyze why the Paige Compositor was a commercial failure, and starting with the Lumitype typesetter, trace the history of computerized typesetting machines from the 1950’s through to the end of the 20th century. It will explain the distinction between print and postprint and offer an account of why the distinction is crucially important to understanding the nature of textuality in the computer era.

N. Katherine Hayles is the James B. Duke Professor of Literature at Duke University. She teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her books include Unthought: The Power Of The Cognitive Nonconscious (2017), Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era (2013), How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (2012), Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (2005), Writing Machines (2002), and How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (1999). Her current project is entitled “Cognizing Media: Shifts, Ruptures, Transformations.”

All are welcome. This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.


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