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Derek Van Ittersum

Data-palace: Modern memory work in digital environments

Starting with the core text's directive to study the functional systems within which literate activity takes place instead of focusing solely on individuals, "Data-palace" presents several clips of writers engaging in memory work with digital tools. While the rhetorical canon of memory continues to provide insight into memory work such as the power of images and places (loci), it is less able to account for the various permutations introduced by new artifacts (such as databases) and practices (such as organization schemes afforded by digital tools).  Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) provides a more complete picture, directing our attention to the interplay between artifacts, practices, and people within specific instances of literate activity.

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Abstract: Traditional views of the canon of memory limit it to mere memorization or, at best, memorization of lists of topics to be used during invention and thus are easily dismissed as irrelevant in the age of computers. "Data-palace: Modern memory work in digital environments" presents audio interviews paired with screen capture recordings of modern writers' memory work to argue that cultural-historical activity theory, particularly theories of distributed cognition, provide more robust ways of understanding the digital tools, practices, and products of modern memory work.

Derek Van Ittersum is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  His research interests include computers and composition, sociohistoric theory, and innovative computer software.  He is currently at work on his dissertation, which traces the diffusion of innovative writing technologies over time through a historical examination of the systems associated with computer engineer Douglas Engelbart as well as interviews with modern writers about their use and resistance to innovative writing tools.