DERRIDA HEXADECIMAL, an exploration of Jacques Derrida's hard drives

Jeremy PEDRAZZI (Research/ CNRS)
, updated on
19 October 2021

The "DERRIDA HEXADECIMAL" project explores Jacques Derrida's hard disks with the methods of digital forensics in order to highlight the writing strategies that were his.

ITEM specializes in textual genetics, which looks at the cognitive process of writers based on their drafts. With digital technology, drafts and, more generally, manuscripts on paper are disappearing. They are - or will be - replaced by computerized supports that record, according to radically new modalities, all writing operations. Generalizing textual genetics to digital storage devices, this project constitutes a first. We are particularly interested in the traces of rewritings present on the disks after erasure and preserved in the internal computer structure of the files. In a first, macrogenetic approach, we will structure the abundance of backups made by Derrida by reconstituting in the form of a phylogenetic tree the filiations between apparently heterogeneous data; this will make it possible to constitute a relevant genetic corpus of natively digital sources. A second approach, more microgenetic, will reconstruct the process(es) of elaboration.

The DERRIDA HEXADECIMAL project has several dimensions:

  • Building an unpublished archive from the digital traces and making it visible;
  • To elaborate a genetic file from the digital traces and to analyze it by comparing it to the philosopher's paper archives.
  • To understand how the notion of archive was forged and transformed in Jacques Derrida's work during the transition from handwriting to computer writing.
  • Exploit text analysis and comparison tools, notably Medite, to analyze the files
  • Explore how word processing interacted with Derrida's verbal creativity ("lapsus digitorum", neologisms, concepts, file recording lexicon, computer tree structure, etc.)


  • Extract data and genetic traces from the various digital media
  • Make them accessible by developing circulation systems within heterogeneous and non-indexed digital archives (data visualization) and by adapting the genetic editing devices developed from the paper files to the abundance of digital data
  • To exploit these data in order to identify the characteristics of Derrida's own scriptural invention, and in particular linguistic invention (creation of neologisms, word-values, signifier games, etc.) and the elaboration of concepts
  • Produce a manual of forensic genetics for researchers wishing to exploit digital archives

Derrida was 56 years old when he acquired his first computer, at the insistence of his American friends who convinced him to overcome his reluctance. As he himself has stated on several occasions, the computer was initially for him a sophisticated typewriter, a "word processing machine". Nevertheless, it is likely that his interaction with this "machine" has evolved and been enriched.

His archive is therefore a first-hand account of the transition phase, during which, at the end of the 20th century, professional writers who were particularly skilled and inventive in the creative use of traditional tools (pen and paper, typewriter) gradually turned into users of the word processor and, more generally, supplemented or replaced their personal paper archive with a digital archive.


  • Aurèle Crasson (ITEM) : head of the project
  • Laurent Alonso (LORIA)
  • Aurèle Crasson (ITEM),
  • Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (LIP6)
  • Jean-Louis Lebrave (ITEM)
  • Jérémy Pedrazzi (ITEM)
  • Maëlle Dagot, (intern - Master 2 de TAL. Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre)
  • Léandre Bécard (intern – Licence 3A Humanités. Université de Caen Normandie)


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