Keith Murphy

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9870

Approve Date

May 1, 2019

Project Title

Murphy, Keith (California, Irvine, U. of) "Typeworlds: Explorations in the Care of Graphic Language"

This project is a study of typefaces and fonts—like Arial and Times New Roman—and the people who care for them as a technology for organizing relations between humans and a range of cultural phenomena. To the extent that social scientists have examined typeface as a feature of the social world, they have primarily formulated their research in cognitive terms, in which different typefaces affect the “legibility” or “readability” of a text. How typeface is made to operate as a social and cultural technology more broadly, however, is much less clearly understood. The centerpiece of this project is an ethnographic and discourse analytic investigation of the “invisible technicians” who attend to the formal details of fonts—designers, typographers, archivists, and others—and who are thus entrusted with “materializing language in the world.” Working within a framework that attends to “matters of care” among practitioners in science and technology, and building on previous research on the social maintenance required for designed things, I examine three categories of care in the management of typography as a technology of social mediation, including Creation (typographic design and pedagogy), Consideration (the use of typeface in graphic design and art), and Preservation (the curation and cultivation of typographic knowledge).