Sunday, June 15, 2008


I knew from the moment that I began working on the project that I wanted the book to be called Mechanisms. I was terrified, though, that someone else in the field would use the title first. It seemed like such an obvious choice--"mechanism" is a word that crops up in our conversations all the time. For me it was perfect, capturing the mechanistic side of computation that I was keen to foreground, as well as connoting both product and process, artifact and algorithm.

The subtitle was much more difficult to nail. Initially it was something like "New Media and the Forensics of Digital Inscription." Ugh. One of the original reviewers for the project gently suggested I might like to reconsider. I did like the focus on inscription (as opposed to text or textuality), but let's face it, that's not a construction calculated to grab even the scholarly impulse buyer. I subsequently played with many variations, trying to retain forensics, textuality or inscription, and new media as key concepts. For a long while, the book was subtitled "New Media and Forensic Textuality," and it appears as such in some early citations. Textuality was important to me because the book is so deeply grounded in humanistic traditions of textual scholarship, but in the end I just couldn't make it work. "New Media and Forensic Textuality" was a phrase which smothered; "New Media and the Forensic Imagination" struck me as dynamic and evocative. The book's coda is also called "The Forensic Imagination," so there's some nice structural reinforcement there. In the end I'm quite pleased with how I titled the book, and I should also mention that the MIT Press gave me complete freedom to do so, for which I am very grateful (I know many colleagues publishing elsewhere who have had glib or awkward titles foisted on them by marketing departments).

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