In 1992, at the onset of today’s digital networks, publisher Kevin
Begos, Jr., artist Dennis Ashbaugh, and science-fiction novelist William
Gibson issued their collaborative artist book Agrippa (a book of the
dead), whose last pages contained a self-encrypting, “vanishing” poem on
a diskette. The poem went viral on the networks. Starting with a look
at Agrippa and The Agrippa Files archive site, this talk speculates on
the principles of “network archaeology” needed to extend the
contemporary approaches of the “history of the book” and “media
archaeology” to past and present media (whether print or digital) that
behave as networked phenomena. The talk concludes with a presentation of
the RoSE (Research-oriented Social Environment) software system being
developed on a NEH Digital Humanities Start-up grant (directed by Liu).
RoSE models networks of past writers and works on an interactive
Alan Liu is Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author ofThe Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (2004) and Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database (2008).