Timothy Leary's software (1985-1996): The dream of post-literal culture

Timothy Leary's software and the dream of post-literal culture (1985-1996)

Above: Select primary sources related to Timothy Leary's software projects. Click the titles for more information and larger window. Or, scroll to the bottom of this page for a table of contents. 

This project examines the relationship between written and "post-literal" communication techniques in a digital archival setting, using the software of American psychologist Timothy Leary as a case study. 

Although most famous for his status as a countercultural celebrity in the 1960s and 70s, Timothy Leary turned toward evangelizing for information technology in the 1980s, and pursued over one dozen software projects before his death in 1996.

While only one of Leary's software projects was ever commercially released (Mind Mirror, Electronic Arts 1985), his contributions to early technoculture include work moderating discussion on Stewart Brand's WELL network, a consulting credit on Interplay Entertainment's Neuromancer video game adaptation (1988), educational software trials at Pennsylvania State University, and a personal website/digital archive that won TIME magazine's 1996 "Cool Site of the Year" award (produced in collaboration with MIT media lab director Joi Ito's Digital Garage, Inc.).

Although most of Leary’s software-related materials are now housed at the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Manuscripts and Archives division, digital materials have only been integrated within the broader Timothy Leary archives since 2007. Leary and his Futique Trust have previously made archival material available in various forms and locations since the 1990s, including the Internet Archive and Leary's personal website. This decentralization makes the Leary papers an ideal case study in new issues facing digital manuscript preservation, access, and interpretation. This project collects publicly-available resources from around the web in order to connect disparate sources in a more centralized fashion than has been previously available.

The "Table of Contents" below lists materials included on this site, most of which are usable via web. See "More on post-literal culture" for information on the themes present in Leary's work.

More information
This project was enabled by Rutgers University's School of Communication & Information Support for Doctoral Student Research Training, Summer 2016. It was developed in part during the Digital Humanities Summer Institute 2016, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Feedback may be directed to james.hodges@rutgers.edu.

Contents of this path: