It takes a jolt of forensic imagination to visualize electronic text inscription. Just such a shock of explanation is provided by Matthew Kirschenbaum in his book Mechansims New Media and the Forensic Imagination. This is a work of compilation of disciplines as a literary scholar with command of digital technologies and media history maps the integration of material qualities of electronic text.
The exposition is grounded across all textual display through correlation with its storage media. Such correlation and strategies for persistence and erasure of stored data makes this book essential for the preservation librarian. The preservation librarian with the specialty’s skills of material sciences and understanding of library resource management will perhaps find Kirchenbaum’s Mechanisms more immediately understandable than humanist scholars for which it is intended.
For all it is an essential tutorial, elegantly expressed. Of particular utility is a proposed structure of formal and forensic materiality that bridges all documentary formats. It turns out that formalized paratextual features pervade every format even those mediated by layers of encoding transaction, automated access and screen drawing. At the same time forensic trace of inscription is likewise continuous across media even at the nano-scale of magnetic charges.
This is a transformative reading experience that will confirm any wider suspicion that the digital revolution is not disruptive of the fundamental miracle of inscription of concepts and the resilience of book transmission.
(2) “From Wunderkammer to Museum 1599-1899” has been described as a “blockbuster”. It is an exhibit about the history of exhibits revealing the deep interplay of artifacts and their representations, of originals and copies. Books and prints are the mediators.
(3) A historical trend toward displacement of artifacts in exhibits to create dioramic arrays is apparent. (Diorama “An imagined succession of brilliant scenes or episodes imperceptivity merging one into another like a pageant in miniature.” Websters Dictionary , 1968)
(4) Captions, photographs, sounds and a menagerie of installation methods have displaced simple arrays of artifacts. Happily the appeal and instructional richness of exhibits has intensified. Behind the curtain of exhibit production conservators are workers of fantasies.
(5) Complex mediations are used. Recently display extractions from electronic database now play a visible, material role of interpretation.
(6) Such extractions obscure authentication and disguise the original and copy transformations.
(7) Among the various specialists at work in exhibit production conservators are well positioned to clarify disruptions and displacements of authentication and transformations of artifacts.
The Third Things Bewteeen Original and Copy is the Diorama of their Interplay.