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Re: Digital Books (Was "Digital Dark Age")
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: Digital Books (Was "Digital Dark Age")
- From: Madeleine Fix <fix.3@OSU.EDU>
- Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 11:22:04 -0500
- In-Reply-To: <0F7800A0Q3LN34@mx4.osu.edu>
- Message-Id: <199902161622.IAA16810@palimpsest.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: READ THE FAQ at http://www.dreamscape.com/pdverhey" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
I agree that this move towards digitizing the undergraduate library is
classist and racist. Yes, books are more democratic because they are
far more portable than even a powerbook. Further, the point of the
library is to make reading FREE. Another rather important -- yet
seemingly untouched -- point involves the development of literacy.
Computer literacy, I would argue, is not the same as book literacy.
Turning pages, tactile response, quality of words printed on paper; all
these things are inherently different that reading (or trying to read)
on a computer screen; dealing with the pixellation, the relative lack
of tactile relations, the revolutions of the luminousity of the screen;
those of us who have migraines understand that reading on the computer
is certainly NOT preferable.
Now basically, to me, what this decision says is "young people are too
destructive to read books"; it implies a certain inherent sense of
disaster involving the fate of these books. While most young people
understand the basics of computing, pulling up web-based files or even
playing a CD-Rom implies a computer literacy that, by nature of the
cost and accessibility of computing, generally develops faster in those
who have economic power or the ability to attend well-funded,
constantly computer-upgrading high schools. I'm sure that the state of
computing in inner city schools is hardly up to Mac 8.5 or Windows '99
standards. Technology -- as film theory has been stating for over
sixty years -- is political. Yet many deny and ignore its political
qualities. Haves and have nots, yes, Dumbing down;
<italic>yes</italic>. Primacy of "information" over "knowledge", yes.
I suggest watching the film Henry Fool by Hal Hartley and reading
Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on
Knowledge for two different, yet profound, takes on technology and its
>I would like an elaboration on this. My first response was to fly off
>handle (classist!?!?!?, racisist!?!?!?) because this kind of attitude
>to encourage the dumbing down of our educational system, the arts, and
>in general. There will always be the have and have nots. Some will
>move up the food chain, others will go down. Sometimes it is fate,
>times not. I've said enough however and will let others take over.
Why does calling a decision classist and/or racist "dumb it down"? To
me, it's basically calling a spade a spade. This is a curiously
social Darwinistic and reductive approach to the many complex variables
that go into determination of, function of, analysis of, theorization
regarding, and basic attention to fundamental questions of literacy.
The same could be said about slavery in America and why slaves were not
allowed to read. Granted, this is a much different situation, but
developments such as the one in Pennsylvania calls for a good deal of
thought, debate, and questioning regarding computers, literacy, the
most functional forms thereof, etc. It seems the best place to find
answers might lie with the students themselves. As a student, hearing
this, I'll tell you, really bummed me out good.
Madeleine R. Fix
Graduate Research Associate
Computer Instructional Technology
The School of Public Policy & Management
Department of Art Education
College of the Arts
The Ohio State University
phone: (614) 292-5882
>>My response to this is that, like computers themselves, they are
>>classist (and, by extension, often racist). Fine, if your intended
>>small, highly educated and relatively rich; not so great if you
>>communicate with a large and diverse populace. Personally, what I
>>loved about books is their portability and their (relative)
>>it is true that even literacy is a class issue (see "Central Station"
>>film from Brazil, if you question this assertion), it is less so
>>technologies that require even more investment of time and
> >>> I loved working in the library.
>>>There was something to be said for working in a place bound in
>Peter D. Verheyen