Peter Carey's Laptop

Main Article Content

Rowan Wilken


In 2001, the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne built on its holdings of Australian literary manuscripts by acquiring all the papers, drafts and other items associated with Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel, True History of the Kelly Gang. The centrepiece of this acquisition, and the focus of this article, is Carey’s Apple Mac Classic laptop computer. The argument that is developed in this article is that Carey’s laptop is a technological artefact that operates, especially at the time of its acquisition, as an important talisman in three interrelated senses. First, it was viewed by library staff as a key means of gaining access to the ‘true history’ of Carey’s own creative drive or creative unconscious. Second, its public display alongside other textual objects (mostly books) served to reinforce a reconstructed corporate image that endeavoured to reposition the library as a vital contemporary cultural site and key player in Melbourne’s institutional gallery scene. Third, it was a crucial symbolic acquisition insofar as it spoke to certain desires within library management at that time, and which responded to similar moves at major libraries elsewhere around the world, to embrace collection digitisation as the path forward.

Article Details

Coding Labour (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Rowan Wilken, Swinburne University

Rowan Wilken is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, and holds an Australian Research Council funded research fellowship (an ARC DECRA) in the Swinburne Institute for Social Research. His present research interests include mobile and locative media, digital technologies and culture, theories and practices of everyday life, domestic technology consumption, and old and new media. He has published widely on mobile and location-based media. He is the co-editor (with Gerard Goggin) of Locative Media (Routledge, forthcoming) and Mobile Technology and Place (Routledge, 2012), and is the author of Teletechnologies, Place, and Community (Routledge, 2011).