Adventures in print (and digital) culture

This summer I was appointed as the new Director of the UW-Madison Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture.  Originally founded 20 years ago as a partnership between the School of Library & Information Studies, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, the Center is currently made up of an eclectic group of scholars, professionals and students who are committed to studying the ways that print and paper, text and image, ideas and inspiration flow through both “old media” like physical books, newspapers, and magazines and, increasingly, the “new media” of digital codes, networks and devices, as they intertwine with the political, economic, and cultural lives of different groups in different times and places.  The Center holds a series of regular colloquia in the SLIS Commons, hosts a biennial international conference on the culture of print right here on campus every other fall, and publishes a series of monographs and edited volumes through the University of Wisconsin Press.  I’m excited about the opportunity to help lead this effort over the next few years.

I’m also excited to announce that the latest book in the Center’s series is now available.   Science in Print: Essays on the History of Science and the Culture of Print was co-edited by Rima D. Apple, Stephen L. Vaughn, and yours truly, based on the Center’s 2008 biennial conference,  The Culture of Print in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine.  Here’s the blurb:

Ever since the threads of seventeenth-century natural philosophy began to coalesce into an understanding of the natural world, printed artifacts such as laboratory notebooks, research journals, college textbooks, and popular paperbacks have been instrumental to the development of what we think of today as “science.” But just as the history of science involves more than recording discoveries, so too does the study of print culture extend beyond the mere cataloguing of books. In both disciplines, researchers attempt to comprehend how social structures of power, reputation, and meaning permeate both the written record and the intellectual scaffolding through which scientific debate takes place.  Science in Print brings together scholars from the fields of print culture, environmental history, science and technology studies, medical history, and library and information studies. This ambitious volume paints a rich picture of those tools and techniques of printing, publishing, and reading that shaped the ideas and practices that grew into modern science, from the days of the Royal Society of London in the late 1600s to the beginning of the modern U.S. environmental movement in the early 1960s.

Finally, I would like to invite all UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff to check out the Center’s conference this semester, Protest on the Page: Print Culture History in Opposition to Almost Anything* (*you can think of), taking place September 28-30 at the Pyle Center right here on campus.  (Believe it or not, the conference theme was chosen well before Madison once again became a national crucible for the modern political-economic public protest over the last 18 months.)  The conference includes a free public lecture on Friday, September 28, at 5:30 p.m., by keynote speaker Victor Navasky (publisher emeritus of The Nation) on the topic “The Case for Protest: verbal and visual, noisy and silent, legal and illegal, overt and covert, and other forms too numerous to mention.”  Hope to see you there!