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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?

This is my third blogging portfolio for History and Future of the Book (EL336). It is a class at Seton Hill University. It has covered the topics of oral and manuscript culture, pre-literate society and literate society, as well as digital culture.

All of my blog entries fall under the category of Coverage because they all include a direct quote from the reading, identify the source, and link to the course website. All of my blog entries also fall under the category of Timeliness because they all occur 24 hours before class.

Coverage and Timeliness:




Doctorow (82-206)


"You friend here tells me your systems have been offline for more than a month. It sure would've been better if you'd come in to see me when it started up." (p. 124) Doctorow

Instead of being concerned with how much information we can access from our hand, the characters of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom access them via their brains. It may seem unnatural, but all technology does at first. Are they more human or more machine?

Doctorow (1-81)


"By measuring the thing that money really represented - your personal capital with your friends and neighbors - you more accurately gauged your success." - (p. 14) Doctorow

Whuffie sounds like Facebook. What happens if no one likes you or you run out of Whuffie points? I guess unpopular people must be the hobos of the world. This is sci-fi on crack.

Kirschenbaum (Finish)


"Texts are 'produced and reproduced under specific social and institutional conditions, and hence every text, including those that may appear to be purely private, is a social text." - (p. 163) Kirschenbaum

He goes on to call text an "event" instead of a "material thing." I'm not sure how text can be defined as an event or a material thing. It's not something tangible. It's an event in the sense that's it is something taking place.

Kirschenbaum (Ch 3)


"The more deeply digitalization penetrates the more efficient the process becomes. This has immediate and tangible repercussions on our technologies for reproducing texts and images." - (p. 134) Kirschenbaum

All technology is digital now. Technology cannot be defined without being called digital. Digitalization creates speed and efficiency.



"Storage has never been more important than it is now in shaping the everyday experience of computing, interactivity, and new media." - Kirschenbaum (p. 4)

Storage is more important than ever because we have access to so much information. We want to save it all so we can gain access to it at any moment, no matter where we are. That's what new media means to me. The convenience and availability of information in the form of handy gadgets.

I read Reading is Bad for Your Health by Roy Porter and Mark Twain's The First Writing-Machines. Porter's essay was a satirical piece about how reading was harmful and gave real, historical quotes and excerpts that encouraged people not to read.

  • Has reading left you with any medical problems?

  • Are we afraid of information overload in the same way that they were in the 18th century?

Twain's essay was about his experience of being one of the first people to own a typewriter. He eventually gave it up because it "degraded his character." I think he meant that all the defects annoyed him that he was in an unpleasant mood all the time. He pawned the typewriter off on someone else and his "morals improved" (p. 502). Then typewriter didn't have the same owner for very long. It went through many different sets of hands.

  • Do you think Twain and the others gave it away out of frustration? People tend to think that each new technology will be easier than the previous, but sometimes you have to put in the time to learn it. Maybe they felt unintelligent because they couldn't get it to work properly?

  • Or maybe they didn't like how the typewriter made them feel? It turned them into a short tempered person?



I know they're not mere computer games, but I don't think they're literature either. Their narrative games. There's text, but the structure is that of a game. There's an outcome that's different than reading a book since you're a character. Win, lose, live, die.

WM Turkle


The Internet atmosphere and the atmosphere of real life both have their own positive qualities and don't need to compete. I don't think the virtual really changes how we experience what's real. If it did, it's on a very low level and subversive, like the way television desensitizes children to violence.

I don't think we'd ever reach the point that people would honestly have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. Besides, not many people are familiar with these enormous virtual societies or even aware that they exist. So it's not like they're a popular trend.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Topics in Media & Culture category.

Newswriting is the previous category.

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