This new version of my website (hosted by Reclaim Hosting at my own domain is a remediation of my long-standing website (hosted on my university’s English Department web server). The migration of posts and materials from the old to new site is not yet complete.


Alan LiuI 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.