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Science in the ArchivesPasts, Presents, Futures$
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Lorraine Daston

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226432229

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226432533.001.0001

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An Archive of Words

An Archive of Words

(p.271) Eleven An Archive of Words
Science in the Archives

Daniel Rosenberg

University of Chicago Press

This paper sketches the story of one of the notable, little-noticed mechanisms of late-twentieth century information culture, the “stop list.” A stop list is a list of words that a computer is instructed to remove or ignore when processing text. These were important tools in twentieth-century electronic text processing, and in crucial ways, determined the character of texts as encountered by computers. Yet they have never been studied or themselves archived. In the past decade, big storage, fast processors, and new statistical techniques have made the stop list less important, and the very ethos of big data weighs against it. Yet the lessons of the stop list are, if anything, more valuable than ever today. The stop list is of special interest as a mechanism fundamental to electronic “systems of statements” and as an example of the kind of para-literary object that we should be especially attentive to archiving today.

Keywords:   keyword, stop word, stop list, computer, data, archive, textuality, infraordinary, OULIPO, KWIC

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