Material Text Cultures

Script-Bearing Artefacts in the New Media


former staff members

Teilprojektleiterin Dr. Dipl.-Soz. Friederike Elias
akademischer Mitarbeiter Christian Vater, M.A.




"Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified."
Vannevar Bush (1945): "As we may Think"


The conception of the subproject Ö is based on the theoretical framework of the Collaborative Research Centre 933 (CRC) and wants to investigate two new questions: What are the impacts of digitalisation on how script-bearing artefacts are perceived and produced in our modern knowledge culture? Which are the new opportunities of (scientific) communication arising through the digitalisation and under which circumstances can they be made available?

The MEMEX (MemoryExtender) - Vannevar Bush (1945): The CRC 933 limits his field of research conceptionally by taking two historiographic caesuras. One is the textualisation on clay tablets in early Mesopotamia and the other is the invention of letterpress printing with movable type in the early modern period. Renowned experts and relevant collections in the field of study can be found at Heidelberg University. As we are living in a time of a drastic technological and praxeological change, the before mentioned experts will be interviewed about the materiality and the consequences of its change in order to find answers that can help generating new knowledge in the present. In order to adapt to recent medial requirements and habits, the subproject Ö uses new media to convey knowledge – dynamic collaborative semantic hypertext focussing on Wikipedia, Video-Streams using You-Tube and augmented reality. We assume that knowledge, terminology and methods that were found and developed by pre-typographic cultures can be transferred onto a post-typographical cultural level.

The new media are a suitable object of examination conducted by the CRC Material Text Cultures because the material basis and the spectrum of possible forms of communication are in a thrilling relation to one another. New media can be characterised by the following features:

  • processual (therefore not completed)
  • participative (therefore collaborative and accessible to everyone)
  • encyclopaedic (therefore accumulative, comprehensive and expansive)
  • spacial (therefore connected reciprocally through social networks and bilateral links)

The ever-present communication and the up-to-date highly accelerated changes in our working and daily life caused by the digital revolution are a huge challenge for society and individuals but also provide new possibilities for collaborative participation and the distribution of knowledge (Berners-Lee 1999, 2001). With good reason, our society can be labelled post-typographical (McLuhan 1962, 1964, 1996). The individual and social pressure to adapt due to changing communication habits has with now doubt risen sharply and still continues grow (Toffler 1970, 1980). It is not unlikely – caused by the recent changes – that a new kind of non-typographical society evolves. So to speak, the “Gutenberg-galaxy“ comes to an end. One possible strategy to face this challenges is looking at how script-bearing artefacts were produced and dealt with in past non-typographical societies. Looking at the history, one can learn about the material transformation of the text-bearing artefacts, the medial shift and the change of practices of usage. These shifts and changes can be precisely characterised with the common research programme and the technical vocabulary developed by the CRC 933: agent networks, recipient context, writing systems and writing material change since the invention of clay tablets because of the affordance and the effectivity of the inscribed artefacts. By looking at the historical perspective, one can draw conclusions about the interplay of the technological conditions and the development of human habits which can be insightful for the present as well (see also the recent debate in Philosophy of Information: Floridi 2011).   

The interested public can be granted access to the available media material of the CRC 933 such as pictures of script-bearing artefacts, open access publications, texts under creative commons if legally possible. The content is well structured and professionally edited.  


The sub-project “script-bearing artefacts in the new media“ will apply new forms of digital scientific communication to the CRC’s research questions and group of themes conducted. The research results of the CRC 933 and the examined materials will help the general public to better understand the current digital revolution. Furthermore, suitable stocks of texts and footage will be made available free of charge to the broad public in digital knowledge repositories.

The key point of the concept is the professional work with the Wikipedia and its related projects which can be seen as the textbook examples of a collaborative body of knowledge as it combines the highest possible reach and different user groups. For this purpose, a Wikipedian in residence will be appointed. Furthermore, an app will be created for mobile devices that enables users to do a city tour in Heidelberg focussing mainly on “script-bearing artefacts“. The city tour will be also suitable for families as it comes with a geocaching route. Thirdly, short video documentations will be created that can be implemented and embedded in many ways via You-Tube as well as it can be used for Wikipedia and the app.

The communication of knowledge is understood as a communicative process that is only possible as a bottom-up movement. Besides the general public and the „Wikipedians“, the main target groups of the Collaborative Research Centre 933 are visitors and residents of metropolitan area Rhein-Neckar.

Events of the sub-project

20th April - 17th July 2015: Akademische Mittagspause 2015 „5.300 Jahre Schrift – Eine kleine Menschheitsgeschichte in 61 Motiven“ (in cooperation with the Heidelberg Center for Cultural Heritage - HCCH)

within this context:
07th July 2015: Friederike Elias: “Barbara“
16th July 2015: Christian Vater: “Hypertext - eine autooperative Schrift im semantischen Raum“


Subprojects of the 3rd Funding Period

A01 A02 A03 A05 A06 A08 A09 A10 A11 A12 B01 B04 B09 B10 B13 B14 B15 C05 C07 C08 C09 C10 INF Ö2 Z



Completed Subprojects

A01 A03 A04 B02 B03 B06 B07 B11 B12 C01 C02 C03 C04 C06 IGK Ö1



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