From Oracle Bones to Computers: The Emergence of Writing Technologies in China

SKU: 978-1-60235-100-4

Baotong Gu

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978-1-60235-100-4 (paperback; $30.00; £22.00; €25.00; $38.00 CAN); © 2009 by Parlor Press. 280 pages, with illustrations, notes, and bibliography.

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978-1-60235-101-1 (hardcover; $60.00; £44.00; €50.00; $76.00 CAN); 978-1-60235-102-8 (Adobe eBook; $16.00; £12.00; €13.00; $21.00 CAN);

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From Oracle Bones to Computers: The Emergence of Writing Technologies in China is the first book to provide a systematic historical, rhetorical, as well as critical account of the development of major writing technologies in China, spanning a history of over five thousand years. Baotong Gu covers the development of a wide array of major writing technologies, most of which were native Chinese inventions, including oracle inscriptions, bronze inscriptions, brush pens, ink, early forms of paper, the modern form of paper, block printing, movable type, the Chinese typewriter, the computer, and the Internet. From Oracle Bones to Computers distinguishes itself from other historical studies because it examines these technologies from a rhetorical perspective to explore how the cultural context, especially the role of language and communication, helps construct and shape the meanings of Chinese writing technologies.

An innovative feature of this book is its development of a six-element, operationalized model of rhetorical analysis that can be applied to the study of any writing technology. Using this model, the author examines the rhetorical contexts of writing technologies in China in their respective historical periods by examining them in the context of exigency, ideology, participants, knowledge creation, access and control, and communication. From Oracle Bones to Computers will appeal to historians, theorists, and teachers across diverse fields of study, such as writing, rhetoric, technology, technology transfer, Asian studies, and cultural studies.

About the Author

With a research interest mainly in the reciprocal relationship between writing technology development and cultural contexts, Baotong Gu’s publications range from articles, reviews, and translations to four co-edited collections: Content Management: Implications for Technical Communicators (2008, a special issue for Technical Communication Quarterly); Content Management: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice (2009, Baywood); Contemporary Western Rhetoric: Critical Methods and Paradigms (1998, China Social Sciences Academy Press); and Contemporary Western Rhetoric: Speech and Discourse Criticism (1998, China Social Sciences Academy Press). Gu is an associate professor of English at Georgia State University.



  1. Introduction: (De)Mystifying the Chinese Culture
  2. (Un)loading Technology
  3. Rhetoricizing and Operationalizing Technology   
  4. Oracle and Bronze Inscriptions     
  5. Early Forms of Pen, Ink, and Paper          
  6. The Modern Form of Paper         
  7. Block Printing and Movable Type           
  8. The Chinese Typewriter   
  9. The Computer and the Internet   
  10. Conclusion: Toward a More Pluralistic Model of Knowledge Construction       

Appendix: Milestone First Events in China’s Internet Use    
About the Author

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