History of Text Technologies | From Cave Paintings to Computers

Socrates, Shakespeare, Saint Paul, Rembrandt, Sappho, Darwin, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Billie Holiday are all dead. We remember them because their words and works were preserved for later generations by means of different text technologies. Texts are material artifacts that take many different forms: cave paintings, tattoos, stone tablets, clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, manuscript books, musical scores, maps, printed books, engravings, newspapers, photographs, films, DVDs, computers. Every kind of text is produced by a special technology, but all those technologies share a simple purpose: they were designed to supplement the fragile human mind by providing a more durable artificial memory system. Those technologically preserved and transmitted memories are the foundation of all human culture.

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Looking at human cultural achievements in this way overcomes many of the entrenched obstacles of national boundaries, languages, and academic departments. Technologies are not limited to nations or languages: they invade and transform cultures. The Hebrew and Greek Bible, the literary and philosophical masterpieces of classical antiquity, influenced readers (like Dante and Chaucer) thousands of years and thousands of miles away from the time and place when they were first written down. The same print technology that circulated the revolutionary ideas of Copernicus and Galileo throughout Europe also circulated the works of Cervantes and Montaigne.


History of Text Technologies at Florida State University is an interdisciplinary certificate program which combines studies in the history of the book and media cultures. The curriculum explores the changing material and aesthetic technologies of cultural transmission in scribal, print, visual, and digital forms, as well as ever evolving media archeologies and ecologies. By taking an expansive view of “text technologies” and their cultural agency, the HoTT program opens conventional textual studies and book history to the insights of cross-disciplinary, trans-historical, trans-national perspectives. Comprised of faculty from a broad range of academic departments, the HoTT program offers students immersion in the historical study of text and visual technologies from manuscript cultures to the digital present.

HoTT aims to promote an active interdisciplinary community at the university, in its classrooms, and across its faculty’s research fields. Interdisciplinary programs are available for graduate students and undergraduates interested in critical study and research projects in textual materials and cultural transmission. In addition to their own research, HoTT faculty are pioneering a book series in collaboration with Palgrave.

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