Photo: Emma Nelson
We the Dead: Preserving Data at the End of the World (under contract with University of North Carolina Press)
In We the Dead, Murphy narrates the development of the “data complex” in the United States—the sprawling network of time capsules stuffed with microfilm, bombproof bunkers for corporate records, and massive server farms giving life to what is often misleadingly called “the cloud.” Murphy also dissects the psychological aspects of the data complex in America and explains how every generation’s fear about the end of the world intensifies its desire to create permanent traces of humans’ existence on earth.
His research led him to archives and bunkers all across the country, including the Library of Congress, UCLA’s Young Research Library, the National Archives, the Westinghouse Archives, the Bunker at Greenbrier, and the heavily securitized Corbis Film Preservation Facility at Iron Mountain. A number of the courses he teaches at Bennington, such as Immortal Media and Digital Materiality, grew directly out of these experiences. Students in these courses can explore both historical and current examples of media technologies, infrastructures, and works of art that reflect the growth of the data complex. For instance, data preservation projects are now expanding into outer space, as well as inner space—many biotechnologists now predict that synthetic DNA will soon become the next dominant format for information storage.
Murphy hopes that We the Dead will provide a critical framework for better understanding this ongoing blurring of the biological body and the “data body”—the total collection of data about a human life, from the birth certificate to browsing histories. But the data complex, according to Murphy, continues to produce and preserve data through human lives, even after those lives have ended. One company has already made “memorial bots” that replicate one’s personality based on social media posts and text messages, so that mourners can text or chat with a deceased loved one’s digital replicant. We the Dead explains how such transformations are fundamentally reshaping not only the role of technology in society, but also our understandings of what it means to be human.
News: "Murphy Receives NEH Summer Stipend"
"The Future of Boys," Fairy Tale Review, 2020 (nominated for Best New Poets 2020)
"Downtime" and "Dead, for the Second Time," JuxtaProse, Spring 2019
Finalist, Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship, Plaster of Paris, 2019
"Of Weapons," Mississippi Review, Winter 2019 (nominated for Best New Poets 2019)
KR Conversations Interview, Kenyon Review Online, October 2018
"The Memory of Teeth," Kenyon Review, Sept/Oct 2018
"Plaster of Paris," Narrative, June 2018, *Poem of the Week
“Love, A Hungry Gun,” Waxwing, October 2017
“Charlottesville Fabulous,” Kenyon Review Blog, August 23, 2017
“Touchscreen Headstone: Speculations on the Digital Afterlife,” Kenyon Review Blog, June 5, 2017
“Retirement for Ghosts,” Kweli Journal, October 2016
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“Bipolaria,” Queen Mob’s Tea House. Special Issue: New Planets :: New Worlds, edited by Rosebud Ben-Oni. May 2016
“Bomb-proofing the Digital Image: An Archaeology of Media Preservation Infrastructure,” invited article for peer-reviewed journal Media-N, special issue on “Art & Networks: Revealing, Critiquing and Composing Global Infrastructures--Part I: Hardware,” Edited by Meredith Hoy and Kris Paulsen, Spring 2014
“Plexiform Neurofibromas,” CHEST: Official Publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, Vol 144, No. 2, August 2013
“Why The Klan Branded a White Pastor,” Kenyon Review Blog, March 8, 2016
“Kanye West’s New Slave Daguerreotypes,” Kenyon Review Blog, January 31, 2016
Before becoming a professor, I co-produced and released to two hip hop albums, Black Fire and Manifest Destiny. I’ve been fortunate to share the stage and collaborate with a number of amazing musicians, including Johnny Kengla, Seth Earnest, Manny Quintero, Mark Stepro, Blueprint, Zero Star, K81, and Dav Julca and Johnny “Echo” Julca (now known as XAXO), not to mention my favorite DJ in the entire galaxy, DJ Pos2! Click the images below to listen.