Moving to a new website…

August 30, 2011

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Please join me at where I will be posting from here on out. My WordPress site will be maintained, but will not be updated further.


2011 AHA Pacific Branch Award for Best First Book on Any Historical Subject

July 16, 2011

It is an honor to report that my book Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China (University of California Press, 2011) was awarded the 2011 American Historical Association Pacific Branch Award for “Best First Book on Any Historical Subject.” My heartfelt thanks goes to the AHA and the entire selection committee.

Upcoming Talk at Ohio State University on May 27, 2011

May 17, 2011

Technologies of Anticipation: How Chinese Typists Invented “Predictive Text” during the Height of Maoism

April 30, 2011

Thomas S. Mullaney of Stanford University will present “Technologies of Anticipation: How Chinese Typists Invented ‘Predictive Text’ during the Height of Maoism,” in Stanford’s Seminar on Science, Technology, and Society (STS).

Abstract: When mechanical Chinese typewriters first entered the marketplace in the 1910s, they featured tray beds containing approximately 2450 free-floating metal characters arranged within a rectangular matrix. Characters were arranged according to the Qing dynasty reference, the Kangxi Dictionary, whose “radical-stroke” system had for centuries formed the basis of an immense and highly diverse information infrastructure encompassing dictionaries, indexes, catalogs, name lists, telegraph codes, typewriters, and more. Beginning in the Republican period (1911-1949), linguists and engineers experimented with alternate organization and retrieval systems, witnessing a proliferation of competing taxonomic systems. It was not until the early Communist period (1949-present), however, that a decentralized network of largely anonymous typists broke with tradition and began to develop natural-language systems of categorizing Chinese characters. Rather than following the radical-stroke system, they sought to maximize the proximity – if not adjacency – of those characters that, when paired together, formed the most commonly used two-character compounds (known in Chinese as ci) and political phrases. What these typists conceptualized and created, this paper will argue, was a technology of probabilistically anticipating the instantly immediate future – or, in other words, the conceptual and practical foundations of what is now referred to as “predictive text” or “autocompletion.” This paper will examine the epistemological, technological, and sociopolitical foundations of this technology, one that has become central to modern computing, commerce, and governmentality.

When: Monday, May 16, 2011. 12:00 PM (Approximate duration of 1.5 hours)

Where: Stanford University, Encina Hall, 2nd Floor East Conference Room (E207) (Map)

Audience: General Public, Students, Faculty/Staff, Alumni/Friends

Sponsor: Hosted by the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

Admission: Free and Open to the Public


Book Reading Tonight at Modern Times (San Francisco)

December 16, 2010

Bay Area friends and colleagues, please join me for a discussion of my book, Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China (Foreword by Benedict Anderson; University of California Press, 2011) tonight at Modern Times Bookstore. The event starts at 7pm.

Book Reading in Berkeley

October 7, 2010

My first book is here (just about)

September 7, 2010

I am excited to report that my first book (unrelated to the Chinese typewriter) is scheduled to be released in November of this year. The cover art was just finalized, and I couldn’t be happier. For more information, please visit the University of California Press page here.

Updates from the Archives

August 26, 2010

Some updates from my archival work this Summer, with more to come. Please enjoy and, if inspired, make contact.

Pinyin and the Chinese Typewriter

August 26, 2010

While in Paris, I also made contact with the Musée des Arts et Métiers, where I was able to view the various Chinese and Japanese machines in their collection. In my ongoing effort to track Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese Typewriting and Chinese Telegraphy

August 26, 2010

Following my trip to London, I was also able to conduct exploratory work at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Read the rest of this entry »