The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.

Toward Metareading
Patrick Bazin

On Metatextuality

"Books, the centuries-old foundation of textualilty, can now be seen as overshadowed by a metatextuality that extends progressively to the whole complex of modes of representing the world, to all the different media, while continuing, nevertheless, to function as a referent. It is for this reason that the difficulty of perfecting and framing the methods for leafing through "pages" on screen witnesses both an effort to reconform the book as nonbook, and at the same time the book's permanence" (153).

On Books and Hypertext

"Very unlike digitized hypertext, which simulates the complexity of things and behaves like a game of the world, the book shrugs off all confusion between language and world, reality and representation; it intrinsically aims for effects of truth (of which literary fiction in particular is at bottom only the inverted double). On the whole, the book fortifies social conversation by producing arguments" (159).

On the Risks of Hypertext

"Another risk, of which any Internet user is conscious, is that of a nomadic roaming or surfing that has lost its bearings -- or its correlate, confining oneself around singular, self-maintained or self-sustained problematics. This double slippery slopevis-à-vis the fundamentally universalist model of the book finds an echo in postmodern relativism and can lead to a kind of cultural tribalism. A third difficulty has to do with the possible disqualification of "eyewitnessing" and its relation to reality (as distinguished from what Derrida calls proof) which the book knew how to guarantee -- by engaging, through the ethos of what was fit to be printed, the responsibility and so to speak the reality of the author, even if he had lied or deluded himself. On the contrary, the constant updating in real time of an electronic magazine, such as the one with which the IPSI Institute in Darmstadt is now experimenting, illustrates forcefully one of hypertextuality's paradoxes: by one reckoning, the most immediate reality bursts onto the screen; by another, it loses all its force for lack of having been truly inscribed there. At the same time that it explodes the limits of text, hypertextuality revives one of the founding questions of culture: by what mediations can private experience and collective practice enter into exchange?" (162).
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