I am Distinguished Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I have been since 1987. I am also an affiliated faculty member of UCSB’s Media Arts & Technology graduate program. At the beginning of my career (1979-1986), I was on the faculty of Yale University’s English Department and British Studies Program.
I began my research in the field of British romantic literature and art. My first book, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford Univ. Press, 1989), explored the relation between the imaginative experiences of literature and history. In a series of theoretical essays in the 1990s, I explored cultural criticism, the “new historicism,” and postmodernism in contemporary literary studies.
Subsequently, I was an early and now continuing voice in the “digital humanities” field. This started in 1994, when I created my Voice of the Shuttle Web site for humanities research. That was the era when I began to study information culture as a way to close the circuit between the literary or historical imagination and the technological imagination. In 2004, I published my The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (Univ. of Chicago Press). In 2008, I also published from Univ. of Chicago Press my Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database. A new book is forthcoming from the same press in 2018: Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age.
In the late 1990’s, I founded the NEH-funded Teaching with Technology project at UC Santa Barbara called Transcriptions: Literature and the Culture of Information, and my English Dept’s undergraduate specialization on Literature and the Culture of Information. During 2002-2007 I was a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) and chair of the Technology/Software Committee of the ELO’s PAD Initiative (Preservation / Archiving / Dissemination of Electronic Literature). Digital initiatives I then led in the 2000s include Transliteracies: Research in the Technological, Social, and Cultural Practices of Online Reading, a University of California multi-campus, collaborative research group (2005-10); and RoSE (Research-oriented Social Environment), a software project funded by a NEH Digital Humanities Start-up grant (2011-12) that is the culmination of Transliteracies.
I founded and am co-leader of the international 4Humanities advocacy initiative in 2010. During 2017-2020, I am Principal Investigator of the 4Humanities WhatEvery1Says research project, which is supported by a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We are using digital methods to study a big-data corpus of public discourse about the humanities, and we are creating resources and toolkits for speaking up for the values of the humanities in today’s society.