[Ithaca, New York]
I’ve been reading about blogs– and even reading a couple of them, an audacious piece of primary research– and I’ve decided to make the jump and start one myself, for a couple reasons. One of the cardinal rules of doing technology forecasting is that you should spend time with emerging technologies, to get a feel for what they’re like and how they’re used. Fieldwork is preferable to archival work, artifacts to documents. (Of course, a “technology” like this really dissolves all those distinctions. But still, the basic idea is there.)
The second is that I’m starting work on the computer mouse book, and have the idea that it might be interesting to write about the project as I work on it. Having published two articles about the Apple mouse (in American Heritage of Invention and Technology and the Stanford alumni magazine), I’ve decided that it really should be my next book. I imagine it being a cross between the kind of history of technology I wrote in my previous life as an academic, and one of those books like Cod or Salt— the untold story of an everyday thing that CHANGED THE WORLD. The mouse hasn’t necessarily changed the world, but it has been part of a larger constellation of technologies that, arguably, have; my aim is to make a device that everyone takes for granted, and make them see it in new way.
My thought is not to post drafts of chapters, or eventually to publish the whole book online as a giant blog; but rather to use this medium to reflect on the research and writing process itself, and talk some about the kinds of things I’m trying to figure out. I’ve written such pieces as commentaries on a couple of my earlier articles, and am in the habit of keeping notebooks documenting what I’ve done– if I don’t, I forget what I’ve done, and waste time tracking down the same thing over and over– but doing it in real time would be different. (Or maybe not.) It might be of some curious use to graduate students to be able to read about the process. The craft-work of history holds an abiding fascination for me, but it’s something that historians generally don’t talk about in public. It’s like listing all the reasons why you love your wife; you’re supposed to love your wife, but hearing someone explain why is vaguely embarrassing.
And I’m here at Cornell to give a talk on the mouse project, so it’s very much on my mind.