The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.
Books in Time
On the Impact of New Technologies
"The electronic revolution of the past half century has not so much
changed modes of human inquiry as it has rendered opaque some of the
most seemingly transparent and fundamental cultural choices faced by
modern societies: how we determine -- as individuals, communities, and
nations, and perhaps as a globe -- to use these information technologies
and toward what ends.
The introduction of these new technologies
has radically destabilized and transformed the legal, economic,
political, and institutional infrastructure of modern knowledge exchange
-- permitting, most significantly, the circumvention of traditional
mechanical pathways of publication and communication. But these cultural
consequences have less to do with the design of the microchip than with
the forms of knowledge and modes of exchange that the introduction of microchip technologies has both wittingly and unwittingly made
On the Immediate Present
"What appears to be emerging from the digital revolution is the
possibility of a new mode of temporality for public communication, one
in which public exchange through the written word can occur without
deferral, in a continously immediate present. A world in which we are
all, through electronic writing, continously present to one another.
There is, I would like to suggest, something unprecedented in this
possibility of the escape of writing from fixity. What the
digitalization of text seems to have opened up is the possibility for
writing to operate in a temporal mode hitherto exclusively possible for
speech, as parole rather than langue" (32).
On the New Mode of Temporality
"Digitalization, then, I am suggesting, is introducting a new mode of
temporality into the modern literary system. It does not, and will not,
however, impose new cultural forms. It is not inevitable that fixed
forms of writing and modes of textuality such as the book will become
extinct, or that we will all soon be living within a transparent utopian
present constituted through scripted speech. Digitalization, rather, has
created a new terrain upon which the literary system will now operate;
it is a terrain that reconceives our mental landscape (both forms of
knowledge and modes of apprehension and exchange) in performative rather
than structural terms" (32).
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