Posts Tagged ‘invention’
Technologies of Anticipation: How Chinese Typists Invented “Predictive Text” during the Height of MaoismApril 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
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 »
I have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks, including my college reunion at Johns Hopkins. During my visit, I will be making a side trip to see what I have reason to believe is the only IBM Chinese Typewriter left in existence. Designed by Gao Zhongqin in the 1940s, IBM developed a limited number of Read the rest of this entry »
There are so many expressions to convey a string of bad luck (“when it rains, it pours,” “bad news comes in threes,” etc.), but comparatively few to express the opposite. Well, whatever the appropriate expression might be, it certainly applies here. Last week, I posted about the Chinese typewriter I was given by two very gracious and wonderful people, James and Joy. Well, this week, I will receive a Japanese typewriter as well – as it turns out, their friend and colleague knew the whereabouts of an old machine, and was also interested in finding it a good home. I cannot wait to see it! James and Joy, thank you so much! And many thanks to your colleague.