The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.
(Re)placing the author: "A Book in the Ruins"
On History, Print, and Electronic Texts
"What's changed is not the thing but its placement. Print stays itself,
electronic text replaces itself. Electronic text is as apt to evolve
before it forms, as apt to dissolve before it finishes. On the screen it
takes our constant and attentive interaction to maintain even the
simulacrum of static text. The future, too, requires as much of us, and
has for some time.... The future won't stay still but instead keeps on
replacing itself. The page becomes the screen, the screen replaces the
page. We could call this placement "history." Electronic texts present
themselves in the medium of their dissolution: they are read where they
are written, they are written where they are read. What "this could be,"
the poet tells us, "you don't know yet" (273-74).
On "Re(placing) the Author
"Electronic text can never be completed; at best its closure maps point
on point until time is linear and the text stays itself, becoming print.
But when a point suddenly fails to map onto itself, the author is
replaced. Replacement of the author turns performer to author. The world
intended by the author is a place of encounter where we continually
create the future as a dissipative structure: the chance of oriented
insertion becomes the moment of structural instability, the interstitial
link wherein we enact the replacement of one writing by another" (283-84).
On Text and Virtual Reality
"The interdeterminability of points of perception argues against a
virtual reality which depends, as most do, upon successive disclosures
of self-generating spaces. The last time I was in actual virtual
reality, no sooner had I donned the helmet than I went running full
speed for the edges of the representation, boundary testing, bursting
through, blowing away the whole wire-frame world into a landscape of
countless, brilliant ruby dice, each spinning letter or numeral a
particle of the code, each an error exception.
To be sure,
before long there will be (there already are) virtual worlds which can
contain us wherever we run. But they too will be a structure of words,
everything we will see from now on is made of words: scene is seen, text
is useless, thus its use" (288).
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