Materialities of Text: Between the Codex & the Net

October 24th – November 4th 2011

Materialities of Text: Between the Codex and the Net

An Online Conference Co-organised by Sas Mays (University of Westminster) and Nick Thoburn (University of Manchester)


The book, in its traditional codex form, appears in transition from print media to digital media; a condition nevertheless complicated by its forms of survival, as indicated by the term ‘webpage’. Despite the epochal significance of the scroll, the codex, and the digital text, such material figures of inscription are necessarily hybrid; a hybridity that especially characterises the current historico-technical relation between print and digital media. Hybridity, of course, has been championed, for example, in postcolonial studies, as a figure of subversion, but it is also clear that hybrid text, as much as it is an object of possible democratisation within the digital public sphere, is also an object of intense capitalisation. Thus, the apparent waning of the hegemony of print is drawing questions of the politics of textual materialism into critical perception, and the need to interrogate the specificity of these materials, in their complex relations to the sensual form of paper and the ‘dispersed’ textuality of the digital medium.

What, then, are the new materialities of hybrid text-media? What are the politics of digital/print hybrids, artists’ books, writing technologies, and digital publishing? How does media hybridity transform the political book, the artists’ book, or the work of literature? What effects do new materialities of text have on patterns of reading? Has media process replaced the media object? What are the sensory forms of new media materialities? How is the commodity-form of the book altered by new media platforms? What are the conditions and forms of specific media hybridities? What does new media do to the ‘perversions’ of the book – to bibliomania, to fetishism? Are we still ‘people of the book’ – what remains of the authority of the book? How has independent publishing responded to new materialities of text? What might figures of the book offer in the way of new or counter-knowledges, forms of community and communication?

Platform / Participants:

In keeping with its theme, the project will centre on an online conference, held on this website, which will allow the uploading of short texts and images, and user-generated commentary and debate. The organisers invite responses to texts and related questions from thinkers in all disciplines: literary-cultural studies, art-practice, critical theory and philosophy, book and publishing history and practice, etc.

Included texts: Janneke Adema & Gary Hall (Coventry University): ‘(Im)materialities of Text: The Book as a Form of Political & Conceptual Resistance in Art and Academia’; Richard Burt (University of Florida): ‘Shelf-Life’; Johanna Drucker (UCLA): ‘Diagrammatic Writing’; Davin Heckman (Siena Heights University): ‘The Politics of Plasticity: Neoliberalism, Deliberation & the Digital Text’; Sas Mays (University of Westminster) ‘On the Political Materiality of the ‘Infinite’ Text’; Daniel Selcer (Duquesne University): ‘Invisible Ink: Atomizing Textual Materialism’; Nick Thoburn (University of Manchester): ‘Materialities of Political Publishing: A Conversation with AAAAARG, Chto Delat, I Cite, Mute, & Neural’.

Click red underlines above for conference papers and to make comments.

The organisers intend this forum to allow discussion that may be included within the second form of dissemination, and feed into contributors’ articles in it: a special issue of the peer reviewed journal New Formations in 2012. Materialities of Text is co-sponsored by Archiving Cultures and CRESC (Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change)

Written by Sas Mays on Wednesday, posted in Materialities of Text (6 comments)


  1. Hi all,
    I bought this book recently and recommend it:
    Garrett Stewart, Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art

    Comment by Richard Burt, 24 October 2011 #
  2. [...] Conceptual Resistance in Art & Academia’. It is open for comments on the symposium’s website, (more specifically, here) together with papers by renowned academics such as Richard Burt, Johanna [...]

  3. I highly recommend Peter Krapp’s new book, just out, to everyone:

    Comment by Richard Burt, 30 October 2011 #
  4. Is the conference over? if so, adieu mes con-freres et con-soeures.

    Comment by Richard Burt, 4 November 2011 #
  5. If we can carry these conversations forward (maybe over email)… I’d really appreciate it.

    Reading the generous feedback from the group, I realize that my paper needs a bit more work and thinking.

    Thank you!

    Comment by Davin Heckman, 5 November 2011 #
  6. Many thanks everybody for a most stimulating conversation. The conference is over now, though the website will stay live.
    We are seeking one or two additional articles for the special issue of New Formations arising from the conference. Interested parties should contact us with ideas or abstracts.
    Regards, Sas and Nick

    Comment by Sas Mays and Nick Thoburn, 5 November 2011 #

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