Week 3 Additional Guidance if You Need It
Consider the significance of what Joel Rothenberg argues about the "longevity" or life-span of digital information. The implications of his conclusions are enormous. They should have you rethinking exactly what kinds of hardware and software you have entrusted with your "library" of e-books, and your own writing, to the extent that it is not done with paper and pen or pencil. Consider the age of the cadaver book you are reading and apply the "Rothenberg Rule" of five-year survival as if it were stored in a digital file on some form of hardware on the day it was first printed. How many times would it have had to have been updated in order to survive so that you could read it?
The second reading, Bolter's "The New Dialogue," gives a quick historical survey of the history of reading and story telling as it affects the readers' roles in the process of making meaning from texts. He is especially interested in how much control readers have over how the text should be performed. Note his comparison between the novice performer of music who must play/sing the score to know what it sounds like, and the expert musician who can see the score "vertically," as a whole set of possibilities in time. Then he examines Plato and Socrates as creatures of two different cultural eras, the latter a man of spoken dialogues that either speaker could steer, and the former a man of written texts that steered the reader. By the end of this reading, he will argue that the new electronic "writing space" will return readers to the control they would have had over reading when in a spoken dialogue. He compares the modern text-bound scholar with a new form of writer he seems to first find in the philosopher, Wittgenstein, who wrote "short unconnected paragraphs" that he later attempted to coordinate with numbered links. Like the later works of literary theorist Roland Barthes, those free-floating but related paragraphs held the author's ideas in a sort of network, a non-linear text. In the work of Jacques Derrida, who sometimes wrote extremely non-linear texts, Bolter sees the forecast of a new form of "writing space," one unbound by "the book" but living in hypertext networks. Writing in 1991, the year the "World-Wide Web" was introduced, Bolter was imagining the writing space in which you have grown up, including discontinuous serial email, Facebook, and Twitter. How do those "textual spaces" differ from the world of "the book"?
To add persepective to Bolter's discussion of the print to digital text revolution, rethink the shift from scrolls as writing spaces to codex books, as seen in the Norwegian "Medieval Help Desk" skit. Why do we guess that it was not really that hard for scroll users to transition to books with pages sewn together at the spine? But why did they make the change in the first place, and how does the scroll relate to the "page" you are reading right now? Hint: Look at that thing on the right side of the page--we're right back at the scroll again and digital texts share its inefficiencies as a reading medium. Go to any large scrolled digital document and, quickly, try to find "page 45." Scrolling readers must navigate the text differently from paging readers.