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Forthcoming book untangles relationship between writing and computers

What’s the relationship between writers, their writing, and word processors? That’s what Matthew Kirschenbaum has set out to explore in his book Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, forthcoming from Harvard University Press in 2013.

Kirschenbaum, an associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, marries his passions for literature and computer science in his work, which looks at authors who adopted word-processing technologies in the late 1970s and early ’80s, how the new composition process affected their writing, and how current technologies such as social media are again changing the way (and the what) authors write.

In a recent episode of CBC Radio’s Spark, Nora Young interviewed Kirschenbaum, who discusses his early findings, plus some interesting tidbits about the history of digital submissions in publishing, the origin of spell check, and the barriers to his research (hint: floppy disks). The segment also includes an interview with Susan Swan in which she talks about transitioning between writing longhand and typing, and why she still uses a dictaphone.

On his blog, Kirschenbaum has put out a call for literary writers who were early adopters of word processing, authors who have refused to transition to computers, publishing professionals who have insight on the topic, and “anyone who knows of interesting fictional renditions of computers and word processing.”