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Re: More food for thought

>I've been enjoying everyone's ideas on the philosophy of Bookbinding and
>hope to get some responses for a paper I'm thinking about: It is based on a
>quote from an article about " Hypertextuality and Electronic Cultural
>" The publishing industry continues to resist the emergence of the
>recombinant text, and opposes increases in cultural speed. It has set
>itself in the gap between production and consumption of texts, which for
>purposes of survival it is bound to maintain. If speed is allowed to
>increase, the book is doomed to perish, along with its renaissance
>companions painting and sculpture".

Sure I'll bite.

In the first place, check out Dallas Smythe. He suggests that time itself
has become a commodity, and the marketplace is being deluged with new ways
for consumers to consume time. Look at the emphasis on leisure activities
-- doesn't look very restful, does it? He argues that real time media (in
which the product is produced at the same moment it is being consumed) is
in some respects the ultimate commodity, because it eliminates the
(non-profit generating) time lag between production and consumption. But
more than that, the consumption of media products is itself productive,
since what it produces is an audience, which can in turn be sold to
advertisers. Consuming media products (being part of an audience) has
become Work. It has become part of our sense of ourselves as productive,
contributing members of society -- why do people watch Seinfeld every week,
if not to discuss the plot the next day at the office? Not watching
constitutes a failure of some kind.

In the second place, the idea that the experience of reading text off a VDT
can somehow replace the experience of a book is incredibly laughable. It's
like saying the fact that I have a shower in my apartment means I will
never want to go swimming in the ocean -- after all, all my
immersing-myself-in-water desires are taken care of at home. This notion
completely ignores the phenomenology of reading (see Merleau-Ponty for
that) and tries to suggest that text is text is text, no matter how
presented. (Once I tried to teach a computer geek friend some basic
principles of graphic design. He understood how the software worked, but
couldn't grasp simple ideas, like the fact that a headline attracts the eye
or that uneven text is slightly disturbing to read. I realized that for
him, text was text, and the visual (or haptic) presentation had no meaning
for him whatever -- very scary).

And in the third place, I take strong issue with the author's contention
that painting and sculpture has perished. If anything, both of these arts
are far more widely practised and valued (if you use pricetags as a
measure) than they were in the Renaissance. Michaelangelo worked for
peanuts for a largely unappreciative church, and da Vinci died a pauper.
There are paintings in many many middle class homes across North America,
albeit not necessarily museum quality. And art schools are turning out more
painters and sculptors than at any time in history. Perhaps it is true that
painting & sculpture have been "vulgarized" (which is to say, become
accessible to the mass audience) but I hardly consider that to be a

If anything, the practice of leisure reading itself faces a threat from
"hypertextuality" because people don't have time (they're off golfing with
their $500 clubs or playing tennis with their new titanium racket), and
because literacy generally is being downgraded in our society (see a recent
issue of Harper's magazine for an article that makes an eerie case for

But books? Naw. The book is much too important a cultural artifact to be
swept away by something that doesn't work when the power goes out. (We in
Montreal learned THAT during the ice storm last January).

Good luck on your paper. It WILL be on paper, won't it?

Kevin Crombie                              e-mail: kcrombie@xxxxxxxxxx
#5 - 224 boul. Saint-Joseph est     voice: (514) 849-7601
Montreal, QC   H2T 1H6

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