Finding Your Way Through Keystroke Logging Data: Visualizations of the Born-Digital Literary Writing Process

Lamyk Bekius

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Genetic criticism investigates analogue drafts and manuscripts to gain insights into the author’s way of working and the creative process, as well as to gain a better understanding of the work itself. Nowadays, most literary authors compose their text in a digital environment. This has led to the fear of the end of genetic criticism (Mathijsen 2009). However, the research carried out by a number of authors shows a variety of techniques to study born-digital writing processes which proves that the digital writing process leaves sufficient traces to ensure genetic analysis (Ries (2018, 2014); Kirschenbaum and Reside (2013), Kirschenbaum (2008), Crombez and Cassiers (2017), Vásári (2019), Vauthier (2016) and Fenoglio (2009)). In the NWO-project ‘Track Changes: Textual Scholarship and the challenge of digital literary writing’ (2018-2023) we investigate the possibilities of yet another tool for enabling the study of the genesis of a digital (literary) writing process: the usage of the keystroke logger Inputlog at the moment of composition. Inputlog is developed at the University of Antwerp and allows the author to write in Microsoft Word (Leijten and Van Waes 2013). While the program is running, it records every keystroke and mouse movement in combination with a timestamp and saves the Word document at the start and end of each writing session.

In this paper, I will report on my ongoing PhD-research (2018-2022) on how the keystroke logging material can yield (new) opportunities for genetic criticism, here specifically through the use of different visualizations of the writing process. The research focuses on the Inputlog material of the writing process of the novel Roosevelt by the Flemish author Gie Bogaert. 1 Bogaert wrote Roosevelt in 422 writing sessions over a period of 259 days. These writing sessions resulted in 277 hours, 14 minutes and 22 seconds of keystroke logging data and 453 Word documents that show the text in different stages of composition. This vast amount of data can be overwhelming and may obscure valuable insights on the writing process from a textual perspective. Therefore, building on existing methodologies in genetic editing, I explore the role of the scholar in making the writing process intelligible from a textual genetic perspective by means of visualizations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 04 Jun 2021
EventDH Benelux 2021: The Humanities in a Digital World (Online) - Online, Leiden, Netherlands
Duration: 02 Jun 202104 Jun 2021


ConferenceDH Benelux 2021
Abbreviated titleDH Benelux 2021
Internet address


  • born-digital literature
  • visualization
  • genetic criticism
  • keystroke logging
  • writing process


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