Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Digitizing the mind of Salman Rushdie

“I might have been a physicist,” wrote Salman Rushdie, adding that he was instead influenced by an idol and went for history and French. “This is an example of non-causal life-changing; and so I can now examine a different path. And the scientist who wrote to me about quantum theory in “Grimus,” and about the Dancing Wu Li masters, showed me that such matters have been my concern from the very start.”

The note is part of an exhibit at Woodruff Library, to celebrate the opening of the Rushdie papers. His eclectic art, life and imagination make Rushdie a true author of our times, spanning continents, cultures and disciplines in an increasingly complex world. It also makes him an ideal test case for how to curate hybrid collections of artifacts – spanning print, physical and virtual realms.

“The imprint of the writer’s personality lies within his computer,” says software engineer Peter Hornsby, who extracted data from Rushdie’s hard drives.

Using Rushdie’s works, Emory’s Manuscript, Artifacts and Rare Books Library is leading the nascent field of archiving “born-digital” materials. Watch a video of the pioneers of "digital archeology" discussing some of the technical challenges:

Emory Magazine describes the interactive approach of the project:

“Soon, you will be able to peruse the e-mail correspondence between Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Salman Rushdie and U2’s Bono. Or quick-search how many times the words ‘tequila’ and ‘rock goddess’ appear in the first draft of Rushdie’s novel ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet.’

“You even will be able to log on to a laptop as Sir Rushdie himself, tinkering with a sentence, adding an embellishment, or marking a particular spot of interest in a manuscript.”

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