Forum 4: Emergence and Knowledge in the Digital Era

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"Twenty Minutes Into the Future, or How Are We Moving Beyond the Book?" by George Landow, Writing Materials, page 214

Landow asks American undergrads, since they are surrounded by analogue and digital information, "What kinds of books do they experience?" He estimates that their reply is very different than what he would have answered three decades ago (215).

  • Books are considered fragile, short-lived, and poorly designed.
  • They are no longer the center of our culture.
  • They are not our primary means of recording information or entertaining.
  • They're in fourth place in sales. Television, movies and video games are winning the race.

Landow believes that although contemporary novels and reference books will become digitalized, the classic books will always remain printed. Manuals and encyclopedias would undoubtedly be more useful online than in print.

  • Landow writes that textbooks are poorly printed, "cobbled-together, non-books" (216). Is your attitude toward particular assignments affected by the form in which you read them?
  • He says that books are seen as an "unnatural technological innovation," (218) and that they are "teaching and communicating machines" (219). How are books "machines"?


"Fragmentation and Cybercascades" by Cass Sunstein, Writing Materials, page 453

People like to see advertisements for what they recently purchased. The advertisements comfort them because "they confirm the wisdom of the decision" (456).

Sunstein relates this to filtering. People prefer to read news that comes from organizations that are in favor of the same political party that they are.

Instead of using links to further information, political websites use them to show how disreputable the opposing view is.

Group polarization: discussions engaged by people of similar views "will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before - but in more extreme form."

Social cascades: information can spread fast; much of it is not reliable.


"The Return of the Word" by Adam Gopnik, Writing Materials, page 180

This essay was all about the Internet's effect on writing. Gopnik compares digital culture to the literary period of the eighteenth century. He relates Internet writing to writers like Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope because they wrote their pieces and published them in magazines and newspapers that they had created. So they were editing and publishing themselves, just like people do online.

He believes that they would have loved to write online because they wrote rants, "short essays and anonymous accusations." "Two of the most popular Web forms - the rant and the quote page - are pure eighteenth century revivals" (181).

Gopnik said that "the Internet was the first new medium to move decisively backward, for it is, essentially, written" (180). When someone tells you they've been online, it means that they've been reading and probably writing as well.

  • The computer is more focused on writing than any other media. When online, are we reading and writing more than we are hearing and viewing?

E-mails are the new letters
Gopnik thinks that people will eventually read the e-mails of notable people like they read collections hand-written letters of Virginia Woolf or Henry James. He believes that e-mail makes us just as conscious of our words as letters did.

  • Do you agree? Will people ever publish the e-mails of famous authors to read their prose?
  • Do you think that because e-mails seem less permanent and arrive instantaneously, they are rushed and the words don't matter as much?

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This page contains a single entry by published on April 30, 2008 10:18 AM.

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