Virtual Codex

March 5, 2003 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm

Penn Humanities Forum, 3619 Locust Walk

Virtual Codex

Page Space to E-Space

Johanna Drucker

Robertson Professor of Media Studies
University of Virginia

The creation of digital artifacts has radically changed the perception of the codex. Traditional understanding of the book as a physical artifact within the scholarly esotericism of bibliographical studies may seem to be a long way from the wired zones of digital studies. But an imaginative dialogue is currently taking place at the intersection of historical investigations, self-conscious design, and the challenges of document presentation within electronic environments.

The aesthetic features of traditional books are being re-examined within conceptions of interface and information design. Graphical codes that have received little recognition within the critical metalanguages of interpretive theory are being reconsidered within the challenges of interface and information design.

How will digital analogues of book forms function? What electronic specific features of electronic and digital display and organization will extend the familiar codex as a metaphor and a meta-form? Drawing on materials from the history of book design, artists experiments with books, textual and bibliographical studies, Prof. Drucker sketches some parameters for thinking about the book as a virtual space of applied aesthetics and imaginative potential.

A visual artist and scholar, Johanna Drucker is known for her avant-garde work, especially in the printing arts. In her role as the Robertson Professor in Media Studies in the English Department of the University of Virginia, she directs a program that focuses on developing a critical and historical understanding of the cultural effects of traditional and new media.

Drucker, who has previously taught at SUNY-Purchase, Yale, and Columbia, is an authority on the history of written forms of language, visual representation, and media theory. She is the author of Theorizing Modernism: Visual Art and the Critical Tradition and The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, among other scholarly books.

As an artist, printer, publisher, and writer, she has also produced more than two dozen creative works, many using experimental typography, through her own press, Druckwerk, as well as with other publishers.