Allison gives an acceptance speech for her Davidson Fellows Scholarship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., September 2017

Allison Huang


Thought Lag: A Lexical Historical Archive

Adalaide Morris introduces New Media Poetics: Context, Technotexts & Theories by suggesting that language always strains to catch up with the lived experience. The trick is not to be ahead of one’s time, but in one’s time. This “lag” between thought and lived experience leads me to believe that we can mine language — a sort of crystallization of thought — to discover links between the past and present.


Why a Lexical Historical Archive is Not Useful

Last week, I proposed that we create a “lexical” archive that looks up historical sources by searching for specific words that might have persisted from the past to the present, and so might help us make connections between past and present. As I thought more about what I was really proposing, I found myself becoming more skeptical about the idea. By basing the archive on ‘word search,’ I was essentially proposing that the archive revolve around a ‘googling’ function. With some research, I realized that googling reflects a new attitude that humans have towards information, an attitude that is antithetical to the very practice of history.