A cutting-edge media history on a perennially fascinating topic, which attempts to answer the crucial question: Who is in charge, the servant or the master?
Though classic servants like the butler or the governess have largely vanished, the Internet is filled with servers: web, ftp, mail, and others perform their daily drudgery, going about their business noiselessly and unnoticed. Why then are current-day digital drudges called servers? Markus Krajewski explores this question by going from the present back to the Baroque to study historical aspects of service through various perspectives, be it the servants' relationship to architecture or their function in literary or scientific contexts. At the intersection of media studies, cultural history, and literature, this work recounts the gradual transition of agency from human to nonhuman actors to show how the concept of the digital server stems from the classic role of the servant.
Markus Krajewski is professor of media history at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs, 1548-1929 and World Projects: Global Information Before World War I, which was awarded the 2007 Prize of the German Society for the History of Medicine, Science and Technology. He also works as a software developer and maintainer of his bibliography software Synapsen: A Hypertextual Card Index (www.synapsen.ch). Ilinca Iurascu is assistant professor of German at the University of British Columbia, specializing in nineteenth-century cultural studies and media theory.