Palinurus: The Academy and the Corporation

The full title of this site is Palinurus: The Academy and the Corporation — Teaching the Humanities in a Restructured World. I created the Palinurus site beginning in February 1998 to encourage critical thought about the corporatization of higher education and the relation between academic “knowledge” and postindustrial “knowledge work”; includes a rationale statement, featured controversies suggested readings, and a gallery of quotations. (Some material submitted by contributors.)


The site fills me with melancholy when looking back on it now from the vantage point of 2013 after continued decreases in public funding for universities; the Great Recession beginning in 2007; the “privatization” of public universities; the trend toward “accountability” and “assessment” of education; the push by technology-industry leaders, pundits, and politicians for MOOC online courses to take up the slack; and other symptoms of the colonization of higher-education institutions by neoliberal philosophies and management structures native to contemporary business.

The original rationale statement for the Palinurus site begins: “This pilot site was built by higher-education humanities scholars who have awakened to the combined practical and intellectual challenge to higher education posed by business in the era of ‘knowledge work,’ ‘learning organizations,’ and ‘information society.'”

Date of Site: February 1998

Palinurus Gallery of Quotes
  • Palinurus Site
  • Selected Pages of Interest (select links on home page, which is a frame page):
    • Rationale statement
    • Featured Controversies, inclduing “Dearing Report (U.K.),” “Cal State ‘Technology Infrastructure Initiative’ (U.S.),” “New Zealand ‘Green Paper’ and its Critics.”
    • Suggested Readings in the following areas
      • The Idea of Business
      • The Idea of the University
      • Academe and Business
      • Information Tech and the Academy

The Canon and the Web (with Laura Mandell)

An early conference panel Web site that I built with Laura Mandell for the session on “The Canon and the Web: Reconfiguring Romanticism in the Information Age” at the MLA convention in Washington D. C., 29 December 1996. In his paper titled “Distant Mirrors and the LAMP” at the MLA convention in 2013, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum has discussed this site as an early “distant mirror” of the later web in its attempt to “situate the session amid a thick contextual network,” its “clear desire for interactivity, as expressed through the live email links and the injunction to initiate correspondence,” and its “curatorial sensibility.”

Date of site: 26 March 1996.
Date of event: 29 December 1996.

Canon and the Web Site    Go to site

Many Wolves (Web Authoring Collective)

This was the digital version of a ham radio club I started on my campus in 1995 for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in several departments (including English and Art) who were early enthusiasts of Web authoring. Included our Web show, a tools page, a project proposal page, and inspiration from Deleuze and Guattari.

“1995 calling 2013: transmission begins. . . .”

Date of site: 18 October 1995. (Earliest Internet Archive capture: 21 November 1996)

Many Wolves Web Authoring Collective
  • Many Wolves site (archival version of site as captured in Internet Archive, 21 November 1996)

“Should We Link to the Unabomber? An Essay on Practical Web Ethics”

This is one of the earliest “blog” essays I wrote–so early that it preceded the era of blogs.

Citation: “Should We Link to the Unabomber? An Essay on Practical Web Ethics.” English Department, UC Santa Barbara, 9 October 1995.


Date: 9 October 1995

Background: The Emergence of the Unabomber Manifesto on the Net

Shortly after the publication of the Unabomber’s “Manifesto on Industrial Society and its Future” in the New York Times and Washington Post on Sept. 19, 1995, Time-Warner mounted the Manifesto on its Web server and made it available as a subpage (titled “Unabomber: Tightening the Net”) from its Pathfinder home page. The link to the full text of the Manifesto is accompanied on the “Tightening the Net” page by links to a variety of mainstream media stories and commentary as well as by updates on the FBI’s manhunt. Copies of the Manifesto have subsequently also appeared on other servers on the net.

The Issue: To Link or Not to Link From a Scholarly Research Page

The Manifesto, its context, and its reception are events of major interest to scholars in such fields as science-technology-and-culture, sociology, journalism, etc. This is all the more so because the distinctly academic style of argumentation and language in the Manifesto (which comes complete with the bomber’s endnotes) establishes an intense feedback loop or “reverb” with the academic institutions whose faculty and staff have been among the bomber’s favorite targets—and casualties.

Given the nature of the Manifesto’s original publication history, however (i.e., violently coerced), the ethics of participating to any degree in the further dissemination of the document is problematic. This is certainly the case if one were considering mounting a duplicate of the whole document on one’s server. But it is also the case, however attenuated and primarily symbolic, if one is merely considering creating a link to the document as it exists on someone else’s server.

In the broadest perspective, the Unabomber incident is a uniquely compelling test of the ethics of pure research. . . .

Lyotard Auto-Differend Page

A “technical experiment and theoretical allegory” based on the work of Jean-François Lyotard. In this early attempt to explore the then-new dynamic capabilities of hypertext, I use now obsolete “client-pull” Web methods to create a series of automated tracks of Lyotard’s thought. The site includes a short theoretical essay on “philosophy of this page.”

Date of Site: August 1995.

Lyotard Auto-Differend    Go to site

The Romantic Chronology (with Laura Mandell)

Co-edited with Laura Mandell, The Romantic Chronology was database-driven hypertext chronology of the Romantic period with a links-archive and other resources designed to provide a historically-organized introduction to online materials in the area. A “Philosophy of this Site” page includes theoretical essays by the editors as well as Rita Raley and Carl Stahmer (serving at that time as research assistants for the project).

The site started in 1995 as a series of large static HTML tables. Then, in 1999, the site became one of my first attempts to create a database-to-Web site (using Filemaker, though at this time I was also experimenting with other limited database programs such as Access before graduating to SQL Server and, later, to modern content management systems with LAMP architecture and MySQL databases).

By 2013, when Laura and I had long stopped developing or adding content to the site, the old Filemaker database (a problem for my English Department’s sysadmin to maintain) was retired. The site was “flattened” in static HTML form for archival purposes.

Date of site: 1995.

Romantic Chronology

Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet

My primer for colleagues learning about the Internet. 124 pp.; “published” in bound form in 1994 and sold for $11 through my campus bookstore.

Date: 5 October 1994

  • Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet (full text as .pdf) (ported from a page-making program into PDF with some loss of elegance in formatting; bookmarks added to chapters)
  • Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet, windscreen metaphor image
    Ultrabasic Guide to the Internet, windscreen metaphor image

    My image from the guide illustrating the Internet as it appears through the “windshield” while driving on the information superhighway.

The Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research (VoS)

Original VoS       Current version of VoS

Role: Creator and editor (“weaver”).
One of the earliest humanities research portals. VoS began in 1994 as a 70+ Web-page directory of humanities research resources organized by field, historical period, author, etc. Its original mission was to seduce other humanities scholars onto the Web by showing them available online humanities materials. Vos was reimplemented in 2001 as a database-to-Web system allowing for dynamic views of the data (general to specific) and user contributions.

Suggested Citation: Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research. Ed. Alan Liu. [Date of page when accessed, e.g., 27 September 2006]. University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved [Date of access, e.g., 27 September 2006]. <>