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On the book's migration to the digital realm...

Anne Dalke's picture

Michiko Kakutani's March 17, 2010 NYTimes essay on "Reading and the Web: Texts Without Context"
(which Jen Rajchel just flagged for us -- thanks, Jen!-- and which begins, btw, w/ one of our "rejected" texts, David Shields' Reality Hunger) will be of interest to anyone of you who is thinking now about what distinguishes the "genre" of the printed book from that which appears on the computer screen, and/or about how our experience of reading (and of self? --more passive? more agential?) is altering as a result of our encounter with these new forms. Here are some tastes-and-teasers:

"the dynamics of the Web ... are encouraging ... artists to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”

"online collectivism ... [is] changing the way people think and process information ... the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces ... [is a] growing emphasis on immediacy ...."

“one of the great joys of book reading — the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas — will be compromised .... the book’s migration to the digital realm will turn the solitary act of reading — 'a direct exchange between author and reader' — into something far more social ... as online chatter about books grows, 'the unity of the book will disperse ....'"

“Reading in the traditional open-ended sense is not what most of us ... do on the Internet .... What we are engaged in — like birds of prey looking for their next meal — is a process of swooping around with an eye out for certain kinds of information.”

"the Internet’s nurturing of niche cultures is contributing to ... 'cyberbalkanization' .... people ... make choices that reflect their own predispositions. 'Serendipitous encounters' with persons and ideas different from one’s own ... tend to grow less frequent, while 'views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet' .... studies of group polarization show that when like-minded people deliberate, they tend to reinforce one another and become more extreme in their views."

"As reading shifts 'from the private page to the communal screen' ... authors 'will increasingly tailor their work to ...  ‘groupiness,’ where people read mainly ‘for the sake of a feeling of belonging’ ... writers seem fated to eschew virtuosity and experimentation in favor of a bland but immediately accessible style.”

Writing ... that “new technologies redefine us,” William Gibson hailed audience participation ... “an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process .... audience is [an] antique term ... archaically passive ...." 


Anne Dalke's picture

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