Simulating Reading: Digital Research Beyond the Database


  • Craig Saper Craig Saper is Professor and Co-ordinator of the Texts & Technology PhD Program in the Department of English at the University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 161346, Orlando, FL, USA 32816-1346



Databases, Interface design, Simulation, Reading, Reading machines, Prototyping, Bob Carlton Brown


In the last decade, much digital humanities research involved databases. Digital technology allowed not only for expansion of concordances, but also, and more importantly, for new types of tagged, hyperlinked, and radiant texts. Databases changed the experience of reading. My research also involves a database, but I now realize that the consequence of building this peculiar database has led to what I believe is the next major aspect of research on the experience of reading: simulation. The reading machines on my website ( allude to Bob Carlton Brown’s machine proposed, in one iteration, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He called the texts prepared for the machine “readies.” This project led to a realization that one could simulate reading situations and experiences usually only described. So, the Brown machine simulation becomes a prototype for a series of simulations on other reading situations both in the past and potential futures.