Interacting with Print is an interdisciplinary, interinstitutional research group devoted to the study of European print culture in the period 1700-1900.
Since 2005, our group has developed and continues to elaborate an innovative approach to the study of print culture based on the concept of interactivity. We investigate how people interacted with printed matter, how they used print media to interact with other people and how printed texts and images interacted within complex media ecologies. ‘Interactive’ is a word most often associated with digital technologies, but we contend that a nuanced and historicized concept of interactivity is key to developing a deeper understanding of print, which emerged as the predominant communications technology in Europe in the period 1700-1900.
Print was undoubtedly important before and after this period, but European culture can most fully be described as a ‘print culture’ in these two centuries. From the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695 that freed English printers from government control to the technological innovations of 1897 that allowed photographs to be printed in newspapers, our period saw print in all its forms move to the centre of cultural life, without eliminating other communications media.
Collaborative research allows us to build a solid understanding of the cultures of print in a way that disaggregated studies could not. Bringing together five scholars and three collaborators from departments of English, History, German, and Modern Languages, trained in the analysis of different media and working on different national contexts, our team’s own interactions aim to produce a distinctive new approach. Interactivity is both our topic and our method: in order to study the interactions of the past, we will create new kinds of interaction in the present.