The practice of moving texts in their entirety or as fragments from one medium to the next has to do with the purposes that readers (humans and machines) put them to. Building on recent work for the reference book "Information: A Historical Companion" (Princeton UP, 2021), this roundtable asks how texts are put to work for different goals. We argue that medium-based practices are imbedded in social cultures and individual habits, and therefore help shape categories and traditions, what UNESCO calls “intangible cultural heritage”.
The discussants have studied the many ways of moving documents to storage places and of translating passages into other languages. They are familiar with changing technologies and developing professionalisms and office practices. They know and care about a variety of methods of indexing, bibliographing and excerpting, and about the way texts were used to forge and plagiarize, to encrypt and to digitize. They have analyzed the physical movement of print and manuscript books, and networks of readers and reader-writers.
The round table will discuss the following questions:
- Ancient text fragments and the modern world: transmitting texts or transmitting canons?
- Kept or discarded: how did individual travel and collecting of information shape the outcome?
- What effects did the professionalization of information practices have on the movement of individual texts?
- How did technologies of processing information change the patterns of its circulation?