Ido Ramati is a Minerva Post-Doctoral Fellow. His PhD dissertation, “Lingua ex Machina: Media Archaeology of Hebrew Inscribing Machines” (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) explored the role media had in shaping the revitalization and modernization of Modern Hebrew since the end of the 19th century, focusing on technologies such as phonograph records, typewriters, the telegraph and later on computers. More generally, his research investigates the relation between media technologies and culture and the role that technical apparatuses play in shaping the contexts and conditions for a range of social phenomena in traditional media as well as contemporary digital culture. Combining cultural critique with historical and theoretical analysis, he studies how language and media influence ideological, political, economic and cultural processes such as the construction of linguistic and national identity.
Cultural techniques; media technologies; media genealogy; media philosophy; imaginary media; history of Modern Hebrew
IKKM Research Project
The Hebrew Keyboard: From Typewriters to Mobile Media
What happens when an ancient language meets modern technology? This research explores the history of the Hebrew keyboard, which has been instrumental in establishing modes of writing in Hebrew, a language that underwent an unprecedented revival after two millennia. For the last 150 years, keyboards have become increasingly integral to the modern experience of writing, beginning with its early days as part of typewriters through the current use of virtual keyboards in mobile media (e.g., smartphones). Embedded in numerous daily media, keyboards determine material conditions for mundane activities by facilitating and conditioning writing possibilities. This project aims at producing the history of the Hebrew keyboard, which has not been written yet. Such a venture requires detailed analysis of both technical and theoretical issues regarding which Hebrew keyboards differ from their non-Hebrew equivalents, with respect to issues such as the setting and design of keyboards, their implementation in actual devices, how they enabled human usage of various technologies, as well as practices and cultural concepts framing Hebrew writing in the modern age.
Preliminary, archival research about the origins of the Hebrew keyboard indeed suggests that the Hebrew keyboard has changed fundamental circumstances for typing, editing, publishing and disseminating Hebrew texts since the end of the 19th century. Writers of Hebrew had to adapt to new materialistic conditions that had social and cultural impacts: an innovative practice of writing, different concepts of the written language and its orthography, a reconfigured meaning of handwriting, and novel physical ways for typing Hebrew keyboards—all these elements meant far-reaching changes in what constitutes writing in Hebrew.
This project aspires to contribute to our understanding of the history of modern Hebrew culture. At the same time, it has a broader, theoretical contribution to make by highlighting both similarities and dissimilarities between the understudied case of the Hebrew keyboards and the more intensively studied case of the Latin keyboards. By focusing on a Semitic language, with its unique characters and right-to-left directionality, western media technologies (and their existing research) are re-contextualized, being viewed from a non-Latin perspective.
I. Ramati. (forthcoming). “Media in the Dissemination of Land-of-Israel Songs,” Studies in Contemporary Jewry 31: Textual Transmission in Contemporary Jewish Cultures (theme issue), 26 pp.
I. Ramati. (forthcoming). “The Orientalized Phonograph: The Mechanical Recording of Oral Jewish Tradition,” Cultural Critique 102, 36 pp.
I. Ramati and A. Pinchevski. (2017). “Uniform Multilingualism: A Media Genealogy of Google Translate,” New Media & Society 20 (7): 2550–2565. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817726951
I. Ramati. (2015). “Walk on Water: Returning to Germany as Cultural Healing,” in: Cinematic Home-comings: Exile and Return in Transnational Cinema, ed. Rebecca Prime. London; Continuum, pp. 209–226.
I. Ramati. (2014). “Between Israel and Germany: Therapeutic Return to the Place of Trauma in Contemporary Israeli Cinema,” New German Critique 41(3), 123: 179–197.