Synopses & Reviews
Most of us hardly ever think about those ubiquitous things that hangandmdash;along with wreaths, light fixtures, and the occasional delivery attempt noticeandmdash;at our front door: house numbers, our address. Taken for granted in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, house numbers have the crucial burden of organizing the places of the worldandmdash;and they do it with zero fanfare or appreciation. In this unique illustrated history, Anton Tantner pays long-overdue tribute to those unassuming combinations of digits, showing that house numbers havenandrsquo;t always existed, and that they have their own interesting history, one he spells out with vivid images from around the world.
As Tantner shows, house numbers started their lives in a gray area between the military, tax authorities, and early police forces. With an engaging style, he moves from the introduction of house numbers in European towns in the eighteenth century, through the spread of the numbering system in the nineteenth century, and on into its global adoption today. He uncovers a contentious past, telling the stories of the many people who have resisted having their homes so systematically ordered. Along the way, his visual journey showcases a surprising diversity of house number displays, visiting historic addresses from the London house on Strand-on-the-Green that is numbered andldquo;Noughtandrdquo; to 1819 Ruston, Louisiana.
The result is a story that will forever change the way you see a city, one that elevates the seemingly insignificant house number to an important place in the history of urban planning.and#160;
andquot;In this thoroughly media archaeological book, Lisa Gitelman folds media history and discovers its edges by diving deep into the flatland of documents, reading technologies of duplication and dissemination from nineteenth-century and#39;joband#39; printing to todayand#39;s PDF. With implications for archival and information science, comparative media, digital humanities, and the history (and future) of texts, Paper Knowledge will be read, referenced, and reproducedandmdash;which is exactly what we want our documents to do.andquot;
andquot;Lisa Gitelmanand#39;s virtuosic excavation of media from the recent past replaces lofty generalizations about and#39;print cultureand#39; with a fine-grained sense of different technological and intellectual moments. Her historical narrative has something to teach not just about the past but also about the future, because her reconstructions of and#39;joband#39; printing, microfilm, photocopying, and the PDF add up to a prehistory of what we now call the digital humanities, one that challenges not just received wisdom about the past but the media theory that underpins scholarsand#39; present-day practices.andquot;
andldquo;Gitelman practices a kind of conceptual archeology without obeisance to the master, in an argument that stands well on its own. . . . By the time you reach the bookand#39;s final chapter, on the rise of PDF, the relationship between the history of ground-level print culture and that of its Ivory Tower analog seem linked in so many suggestive ways that the advent of digital culture seems like just one part of an intricate pattern.andrdquo;
andldquo;Four intriguing essays make up this tantalising and ambitious short book. . . . The strength of this bold volume is in its argument that we can learn a great deal if we focus, not only on what information they contain but what institutional and social function they serve; not what theyandrsquo;re about but what they do.andrdquo;
andquot;In all cases, Gitelman offers a meticulous reconstruction of the historical context of the media changes she foregrounds and in many regards this book is a real Wunderkammer. At the same time, however, the author always scrutinizes the past in order to show what it can mean for us today, and here the political dimension of the book comes to the fore. For Paper Knowledge is also a passionate discussion of what knowing and showing are about, namely the possibility to producing, sharing, debating knowledge in a society to opens this knowledge to all of its members and whose structure, thanks to technology, is no longer determined by those who know and show and those who donand#39;t.andquot;
andquot;A well-rounded exploration of publishing technology and how it transforms every aspect of our lives, from the way we are governed to the way we read books and news.andquot;
andldquo;The proliferation of marriage certificates and death warrants holds few terrors for Lisa Gitelman, who finds richness rather than ennui in them. Her ingenious essay in media archaeology, Paper Knowledge, takes as its central category the document. The document is a material genre; the words matter, but so too does their physical instantiation, which is often accompanied by a baroque flummery of water-marks, seals and signatures. And the document is remarkable as a product of print that does not ask to be read. Instead, documents are used to hold us in place within a web of bureaucratic institutions.andrdquo;
andldquo;Gitelman offers keen insights into the constitutive nature of documents in modern social life. Merging wittiness, casualness, and rigor, she crafts a nuanced picture of the document and some ofits key genres. andhellip; A must-read for media studies and digital media; useful for those interested in communication, cultural studies, and sociology. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.andquot;
Paper Knowledge is a remarkable book about the mundane: the library card, the promissory note, the movie ticket, the PDF (Portable Document Format). It is a media history of the document.
About the Author
Lisa Gitelman is Professor of English and of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is the author of Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture and Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era and the editor of andquot;Raw Dataandquot; Is an Oxymoron and New Media, 1740andndash;1915.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Paper Knowledge 1
1. A Short History of ________ 21
2. The Typescript Book 53
3. Xerographers of the Mind 83
4. Near Print and Beyond Paper: Knowing by *.pdf 111
Afterword. Amateurs Rush In 136
Works Cited 189