projects


Electronic Correspondence as Literature

There is a literary tradition of 'correspondence literature' in which the letters of various, potentially notable individuals, are collected and published as a statement in themselves. Edited with contextual footnotes and commentary, they are taken both as a documentary resource and as an illustration of the development of a person or their thought.

My main interest is in whether this has been applied to electronic correspondence, and particularly that of technical contributors of note -- for example, Ritchie, RMS, Torvalds or ESR.

If not, it would be an interesting if somewhat laborious process to see how much of their accumulated communications can be extracted from various mailing lists and personal caches. Long-form emails would be preferred, and shorter exchanges could perhaps be presented as a dialogue between two conversants. The challenges for dealing with electronic materials rather than physical letters would be worth documenting in themselves.

The end result of this process would likely be a book, perhaps with an accompanying online extended collection. The intellectual property rights for such a venture would be difficult to figure out, as would the specific target.

One potential avenue would be to take a multitudinous approach -- showing how the various 'free software' thinkers developed their lines of thought.