Dennis Yi Tenen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University. He is the author of Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation (Stanford UP, 2017) and the co-founder of Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities. His next book project concerns the creative limits of artificial intelligence.
Authors | Dennis Yi Tenen
Articles on Amodern by Dennis Yi Tenen
The Strata of Digital Inscription
Using archival materials from the history of twentieth century technology, I advance a theory of laminate text grounded in the physical affordances of the medium. It proceeds in three parts, after a brief methodological discussion at the intersection of literary theory and media history. In the first layer or “sediment,” we observe the development of encoded languages used to store data on ticker tape and punch cards. The second layer is characterized by its increasing opacity: electromagnetic storage becomes inaccessible to human senses. Finally, a layer of simulated inscription is laid down to restore the appearance of a single surface onscreen. Each sediment presents distinct challenges to contemporary practices of reading and interpretation.